After a tear-away win in the season opener against Soaks at the Foreshore, Round 2 against Paly proved a much tougher proposition for Neddies across the river at Tompkins Park.
Apart from the usual beer, burgers and live Super Rugby on the big screen, there was added entertainment in the form of non-stop sideline commentary throughout the premier grade match which had shades of Phil Kearns calling a Waratahs match.
Taking the field after a come-from-behind 36-29 win in reserves, a forfeit in thirds and a 19-0 win in fourths, the Neddies premier grade team took to the field playing into the sun and breeze. It was something of a revamped line-up from week one, with the likes of skipper Mike Egan, Aiden Laxton, Hershelle Classen, Drake Robson, Kauri Cudd, and newcomers Kaleb Whakataka and Jonathan Tiueti all out for one reason or another. Apart from Force trio Tom Sheminant, Tevin Ferris and Heath Tessmann, this meant first starts of the season for the likes of former Colt Cameron Brown and the returning Maia King. But perhaps the biggest surprise on the team sheet was that of evergreen halfback Mike Botes, whose last outing for Neddies was back in the days when the players wore white shorts.
Anyway, the first half was a real arm wrestle with a fired-up Paly team doing a much better job of holding on to possession. When the teams broke for oranges, Paly were deservedly 6-0 ahead courtesy of two penalty goals.
Playing with the sun at their backs in the second spell, Neddies wrestled back the lead with a converted try to former junior Tom Sheminant. However, Paly seized on a momentum change following a yellow card to Ammon Matuauto to score a try which gave them a 13-7 lead. Things were heating up. Phil Kearns was in full voice. Tries to David Bailey and Tevin Ferris gave Neddies a 19-13 buffer – but it was touch and go right to the final whistle as Paly threw everything at their opponents.
For new coach Sam Rarasea, it was enough of a hair-raising experience for a couple of his dreadlocks to tilt slightly skywards. The result means Neddies will head to Bennett Park two-from-two on Saturday to take on traditional rivals Wests.
Be there. Be loud. Be proud. GO NEDDIES!!