In Hulk’s bible, the TAB form guide, there is a well-scrutinised column this time of year highlighting the wet track winners at Belmont Park. Unfortunately for Neddies, the noted wet track winner at Tompkins Park on Saturday was the home team, Paly.
Playing into the teeth of weather they would moan about in Invercargill was always going to a challenge for Neddies in the first half.
While Paly registered the first points of the game with a penalty goal, Neddies threatened to score the first try before a dropped ball saw the home side go coast-to-coast for an 8-0 lead. That pretty much set the tone for the afternoon.
The 8-0 half time lead looked gettable, even though the worst of the weather had passed. But Paly were playing the better wet weather rugby, scoring a critical early try to take a 13-0 lead.
But when Neddies hit back with a try to workhorse flanker Shane Hemi, the game was back in the balance at 13-7.
However, it was Paly who finished stronger with a converted try to seal a deserved 20-7 win.
The result left Neddies in second place on the ladder – but with the hooves of the chasing pack now audible with just four games to go before the finals.
There were a couple of flashes of excitement for the Neddies faithful later on at NIB stadium, when the injection of Neddies front-rowers Anaru “the Bull” Rangi and Jermaine “the Jermaine Train” Ainsley against the Stormers resulted in a rare tighthead for the Force. And Anaru still hasn’t washed the try-line paint from his cheek after his block-busting run which looked for all money like his maiden Super 15 try.
Meanwhile, Force ball boy Jamie Drummond (pictured) was doing his bit to bolster Neddies second-row ranks for next season with some sweet talking to Stormers and Springboks giant Eben Etzebeth. However, Eben he couldn’t convince him to come to The Foreshore (humour courtesy of Rex Julian, all rights reserved).
Quote of the week goes to rugby reporter Wayne Smith in The Australian, lamenting on the collective 203-63 scoreline which the Kiwis beat Aussie teams in Super 15 over the weekend: “By contrast, the Crusaders and the Chiefs – heck, all of them – were looting possession like someone had switched off the CCTV cameras.”
Saturday sees Neddies head to Pat O’Hara to take on Baysie. Hopefully in better weather conditions.
Be there. Be loud. Be proud. GO NEDDIES!!