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Although Invercargill had won the Galbraith Shield in the previous two years and were looking like winning it again Tokanui gave them the fright of their life in 1976 when they drew 3-3 with them. It definitely sent out a message that this is not going to be an easy championship.
That year Invercargill took to Rugby Club with a new look jersey but left with a body that told them they had just come up against one of the toughest forward packs in the competition. Invercargill played with the wind at their back in the first half and their backs kept trying to penetrate through the strong defence of Tokanui but to no avail. The score at half time was 0-0.
Against the run of play Smith booted over a penalty for Invercargill and Fergus Dermody replied with 14 minutes to go.
Because of the weather, with light rain falling throughout the whole match, the backs saw little of the ball which suited Tokanui's style of play perfectly. With their forward pack playing with all heart and their great mauling skills, Invercargill were vulnerable.
Invercargill did however have a distinct advantage of their three-quarters, but due to the nature of the game the ball just did not reach them. Trevor Keelty for Invercargill made a great break but was quickly cut down by Tokanui and you never saw him in the game again, due not only to the effective tackling but Invercargill's reluctance to throw the ball around.
Bruce Lamb for Tokanui, was nothing short of brillant and together with the Dermody brothers, Fergus, Gerald and Stuart and also with Rex Kingdon, completely dominated the lineouts. Fergus outgunned his opposite and a very good player as well in Glen Smith.
David Wray, a new half back for Tokanui, looked promising and covered well. Jeff Gardiner played his first club game for Tokanui and has played for North Otgao, Southland, Western and Eastern.
Invercargill's forwards lacked the drive of Tokanui. Kevin Duke and Roger Ramsay did play well and did their best to try and stop the steamrolling of the Tokanui forwards.
Best of the Invercargill backs was full back Alan Jones, who was probably the one thorn in Tokanui's side as he positioned himself well, was a fearless tackler and has great ball skills.
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