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Southland played their first inter-provincial game against Wairarapa-Bush (WB) in 1972 and came out the victors. Southland gave a determined performance against a team that had five games under their belt.
The teams were:
Southland; Doug Nicol, Lin Booth, J.R Hardie, Murray Mitchell, Alun Pennicott, John Polson, Dave Langford, Des Langford, Bob Barber, D. Herbert, Gerald Dermody, Gus McAllister, A. W. Dickson, Frank Oliver, Ken McRae and Phillip Butt.
Wairarapa Bush; Roy Couch, Roger Twentyman, Bruce Martin, C. Howard, R. Pringle, Neil Purivs, N. Sanson, Laurie Karatau, N. Taylor, Pat Ryan, D. Oliver, I. Turley, Brian McConnochie, N. Narby, G. McGlashan, W. Rowlands.
It was Southland's full-back Doug Nicol that proved the difference between the two sides, especially with his kicking boot. His hands and positional play were almost perfect, he came into the back-line at precise moments to set his wingers up and was a devastating tackler. He kicked three penalty goals and a conversion from Alun Pennicot's try.
The first try was by way of John Polson at first five eight, joining the back-line twice and putting a perfect kick ahead, for Lin Booth to toe up over the line and score.
Not only did Polson play a dictating game he had to contend with some average ball supplied by Des Langford at halfback. It was Des's first game for Southland so it was probably more nerves than ability.
When Langford was not under pressure from the WB loose he could send out beautiful long passes but when confronted he was often hurried off the ball.
Southland forwards won good clean ball in the line-outs, especially Frank Oliver and Gerald Dermody in the front and Gus McAllister in the middle and Bob Barber at the back.
The statistic was 29-19 line-outs win, but unfortunately they let it slip in the second half and it should have been a greater margin.
Ken McRae at hooker took three tightheads in the game and played well round the field.
The Southland loose forwards did not match their opponents pace but Andy Dickson had one of his better games and tidied up a lot of loose ball. Bob Barber proved to be one of the better forwards, although not seen as he was working hard in the tight.
In the backs WB had an edge over Southland with Roy Couch at full-back and Neil Purvis at second five eight.
Roger Twentyman, a former Southland player showed that he was still full of pace, and on one occassion he beat Nichol on a race ahead for the ball.
Bruce Martin was steady and reliable and half-back Laurie Karatau, made Pat Ryan's try. He seemed to have trouble feeding the scrum, which meant WB were penalised on several occasions.
Pat Ryan had made the junior All Blacks to tour Australia, but this did not mean he was the better flanker for WB as on the other side, Brian McConnochie, was more impressive, had more pace and was quicker to the breakdowns. He had played most of his rugby on the wing and had switched to the flanker position.
Neville Taylor at No. 8 for WB was a previous full-back and his good ball and kicking skills were a bonus for him at that position.
Ian Turley and Dave Oliver both worked hard for WB to combat the advantage Southland had in the line-outs.
The final score was 15-6.
Reference: Deserved Southland Win Over Wairarapa-Bush. The Southland Times June 1972.
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