Southern takes Topp Cup honours

Leaps and bounds . . . Chase Owen widens the lead for Southern Region to 27›20, with Central’s Logan Beggs in hot pursuit. PHOTO: NICK BROOK



Southern Region has retained the coveted Topp Cup with a 36›25 win over Central Otago in beautiful conditions at the Balclutha Showgrounds.

Supporters were out in force for both sides and they were treated to an epic game of rugby on Saturday.

Central opened the scoring inside the opening two minutes with a penalty to fullback Doug Smith to settle the nerves.

Central was clinical in attack and did not offer Southern many chances to turn over the ball.

Once Southern managed to get its hands on the ball, its continuity was impressive.

It shifted the ball wide and was rewarded with the opening try of the match to flanker Liam Turnbull.

After the successful conversion Southern failed to secure the kickoff and gave away territory, which Central capitalised on.

Another successful penalty to Smith tightened the gap to 7›6.

It was at this point the home side started to control proceedings.

Its scrum set a fantastic platform and its ability to hold on to the ball was impressive.

Southern pressured the Central defence into giving away penalties, which kept it in the red zone for large periods. Thomas Johnson slotted a penalty for the home side before Southern began to reap the rewards of its constant pressure.

Winger Robin Fesilafai was next to score for the South after some trickery at the ruck saw him stroll in unopposed. Johnson kicked the conversion to extend the lead.

It was not long before Fesilafai was in again, this time after a beautiful passage of play which saw the ball move through numerous pairs of hands.

South led 22›6 as the match approached half›time.

Central mustered one last attack in the half and was rewarded with a try to fullback Smith who danced his way over from close range, then converted. South led 22›13 at halftime.

Following the whistle, Southern continued to pile pressure on the Central defence, which held firm.

A penalty for Central deep in its half saw fullback Smith take a quick tap, scamper 50m and release first five Rhys Harrold beneath the posts to give the visitors a huge boost. Smith converted to bring Central within two points.

Midway through the second half, both benches were emptied, and the match became more open and less structured.

This favoured the South which made the most of possession. Midfielder Chase Owen scored the next try of the match for the South.

Owen put up a bomb that his uncle Gary would have been proud of; the ball bounced, Owen re›gathered and beat the defence to the line.

Owen would notch up his second›half double just moments later as another powerful attack from the South saw him dive over from close range.

Central engineered one more attack in the match, scoring through first›five Harrold, but it was too little, too late.

Central Otago’s Development side had a 22›21 win over Southern in the earlier match.

Result: Southern Region Premiers 36 (Robin Fesilafai 2, Chase Owen 2, Liam Turnbull tries; Thomas Johnson 4 con, 1 pen) beat Central Otago Premiers 25 (Rhys Harrold 2, Doug Smith tries; Smith 2 con, 2 pen). HT 22›13.