South edges to win in Owaka thriller

Sitter . . . South’s Josh Turnbull cannot believe his luck as he scores his team’s second try, watched by team›mate Connor Mills and chasing Northern oppon› ent Callum Smeaton during the teams’ match in Owaka on Saturday. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON


The Southern Battlers have regained the Caelib Edwards Memorial Cup with a 27›21 win over the Northern Warriors at Swamp Hen Park in Owaka on Saturday.

The South had the early run of proceedings and fought its way into enemy territory but for no reward. Silly mistakes and a dysfunctional lineout allowed North to clear their lines. South would open the scoring 10 minutes into the match with midfielder Ethan Edwards crossing the chalk after sustained pressure. Shortly after, a charge›down from hooker Josh Turnbull resulted in another try to the South and a 12›0 lead midway through the half. For the rest of the half the North side attacked with purpose. It set up shop in the South 22 and forced it to defend for large periods. South’s defence was up to the task with numerous turnovers at ruck time. North attacked solidly for 20 minutes before prop Ethan Hippolite rumbled his way over to give his side just reward for its attacking pressure. The score at the fruit break was 12›7 to the South.

The second half started promisingly for the North. Replacement midfielder Mark McKenzie carried for 60m before the Northern forwards took control close to the line. Southern midfielder Edwards tried for an intercept on his own goal line which was deemed a deliberate knock›down. North was awarded a penalty try to Edwards was sent to the naughty chair for 10 minutes. The player deficit did not seem to affect the South’s confidence as it attacked from the kickoff, forcing the Warriors to give away a penalty which was plugged into the corner. From the resulting lineout, lock Andy Carruthers scored for the South. The try was converted by Jeremy Gray, who kicked a penalty shortly after to give the South a handy 22›14 lead with 20 minutes remaining. The South resumed play with confidence as both sides emptied the bench. South replacement first five Jack Dent spied some room on the short side which set up a try in the corner to Clayton Cochrane to extend South’s lead to 27›14. The North needed to respond with time running out, and it once again showed its attacking prowess and ability to hang on to the ball for long periods. It was rewarded with a try to replacement forward Max Homer with five minutes left on the clock. Brad Frost converted the try which made the points deficit six. For the remainder of the match, the North attacked and threw everything it had at the Southern try›line. South responded with a brick wall of defence which would not be penetrated for the remainder of the match.

It was a strong win for the South based on strong defence and clinical play with ball in hand. It had few opportunities, but made the most of the ones it had. The forwards were led well by skipper Josh Turnbull who showed all the ability, heart and ticker a match like this requires. Turnbull was ably supported by No 8 Kael Merrett who also had a very strong match. Chase Owen and Sylvester Reeves were the pick of the backs. Owen’s kicking game was strong and he and Reeves were dominant in the tackle. Reeves secured some key turnovers for his side at ruck time.

The North were led up front by skipper Dylan Mackenzie and prop Ben Millar who were immense in their time on the field. Both carried strongly, got through their work at set piece and put in some huge hits on defence. Lock William Haywood and flanker Dylan Greer were also good.

The Northern backline were quiet for the most part but received an added boost when Mark McKenzie came on to the field. Conrad Williams, Lachie Gunson and Max Homer all added impact from the pine.

ΠSouthern Battlers 27 (Ethan Edwards, Clayton Cochrane, Josh Turnbull, Andy Carruthers tries; Jeremy Gray 2 con, 1 pen) beat Northern Warriors 21 (Penalty try, Ethan Hippolite, Max Homer tries; Callum Smeaton 1 con; Brad Frost 1 con) HT 12›7