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The opening weekend of the divisional section of the combined rugby competition threw up some interesting results.
Woodlands thrashed Bluff 33-6 which will be of concern to the coaches of the red and white. Woodlands with the strong win has sent out a message to the rest of the competition "watch out for us". Invercargill comfortable downed Pirates 17-6 with that game notable for Grant Soper (Invercargill) bought up the first century for the season.
Invercargill was not under any pressure when beating Pirates with the game not reaching any great heights and actually became quite scrappy, with infringements out of frustration slowing the game. Players were constantly penalised for having their knee on the ground, which is a new rule. Soper and second five eight, Richard Boyton had time in the sin-bin but Pirates never took advantage of this, and struggled to get through Invercargill's tight defence. The only points from Pirates came from the boot of Kevin Burns,
Ian Donaldson was always a danger for Pirates and scored all three tries for Invercargill, by using his feet to beat the tackler every time. At one stage it looked like Invercargill was going to post a larger score but after Donald'sons last try eight minutes into the second half and some scrambling play by Pirates to halt Invercargill on their line that was the last of the scoring.
The Invercargill forward pack was strong and skilled as they marched the Pirates scrum back time and time again. Any ball cleared by Pirates was always under pressure which made the pass or kick haphazard.
Pirates though did not give up and spun the ball as much as possible but they just could not find a way through the tight defence of Invercargill. Donaldson covered well on defence.
The play of the game went something like this - 17 minute - Soper kicked a penalty goal, 34 minute - the best try of the game where Soper fielded a poor clearing attempt by Pirates in his own 22M and ran through 3 or 4 hapless tackles from Pirates to set his outside backs up for a run at the line. Centre Steven Pokere was tackled but the ball came back through the backs and Donaldson with three men in front of him used his feet to get round three tacklers. 43 minutes into the second half, Burns kicked his first penalty goal.
48th Minute replacement winger, Reid Boynton charged in from the blindside wing, set up the ruck and cleared to Soper in the backline who in turn fed Donaldson to go over for his third try.
52nd Minute - Burns kicked Penalty Goal.
Hooker Mark Crowther and prop Kerry Flowers had good games for Invercargill and were in the thick of the action. Lock Chris Johnson did what was expected of him in the lineouts, and rucks while flankers, Robin Harris and Tony Proctor worked hard close to their back line all day.
The clash between the two full-backs was more about who had the most ball, which was Soper but as is his trait, did not show control, particularly in the second half. Burns was sound and did not get the opportunities of Soper and his missing of two at goal proved costly for the Pirates team.
Few of the Pirates backs looked dangerous but Ross Polson covered a lot of ground and tackled well, first five eight, Murray Brown linked up well. Pirates had few moments in the forwards but they did win some good ball but it was always given to their backline, they just could not penetrate through the Invercargill defence.
Hooker, Bruce Shields for Pirates, was tough in the rucks and mauls and threw well into the lineouts but it was not enough.
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