Southern men win rugby’s Watters Cup
Southern has got their hands on the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union’s biggest prize, and this time around they don’t have to share it.
The Watters Cup went on the line at the Mayfield Showgrounds on Sunday, and while it was a repeat of last year’s final between Southern and Rakaia, a repeat of last year’s controversial draw wasn’t on the cards after a rule change allowed for 10 minutes of extra time.
The extra minutes weren’t required though, as Southern – on their home turf at Mayfield, after heavy rain and flooding deemed the Ashburton Showgrounds unplayable, forcing the game to be moved and delayed by a day – edged ahead on the second half. Down at the break, they came back and held on for a 35-21 win.
Beaten Combined Country Cup finalists Rakaia had started the better of the two sides, going up 6-0 thanks to two penalties off the ever reliable boot of Tom Hanham-Carter, before Southern scored a try against the run of play to wing Corey Howell. A Richard Fridd penalty gave Southern the lead, before Seta Koroitamana snatched it back with a try just before the break, to give Rakaia an 11-8 lead at the halfway mark.
Southern produced the perfect start to the second half, with a Gideon Lambrechts try giving them the lead back, and they kept that pressure on, extending their lead with a try to Jon Dampney, who last week played his 200th senior game for the club.
Realising their second chance at silverware for the season was slipping away as it had against Southbridge in the Combined Country Cup final, Rakaia sprung into action. Willie McGoon looked to have scored in the corner, but after a lengthy discussion between referee and touch judge, was ruled to have been in touch. It was to be a turning point in the match.
Southern struck straight back with their fourth try of the day, and while Koroitamana got one back for Rakaia, time was running out.
A Hanham-Carter penalty reduced the gap to six, 27-21, putting Rakaia within a converted try, but when Southern was awarded a penalty of its own right in front with time almost up, the game slipped from Rakaia’s grasp. Howell’s second try of the day then sealed the deal.
Just two weeks ago, Rakaia scored a last minute try through Maleli Sau to snatch victory from under Southern’s nose in the round robin, but no such comeback eventuated on Sunday.
Sau, who scored a hat-trick and starred for Rakaia in that last game, was lucky to even make the field on Sunday after ending up in hospital on Thursday night thanks to a troublesome boil. He was initially named on the bench, but with the weather delay allowing an extra day to recover, he managed to start.
Southern’s Logan Bonnington on the charge during the Watters Cup final. Southern beat Rakaia 35-21.