Rugby: Suburbs break 24 year drought to claim Gallaher Shield

By Campbell Burnes at Eden Park

Suburbs 12 Grammar TEC 9
Suburbs have taken out Auckland's premier club rugby competition for 2016.
Suburbs have taken out Auckland's premier club rugby competition for 2016.

The Gallaher Shield returns to west Auckland for the first time since 2003 and to the Suburbs club for the first time since Craig Dowd led them to victory in 1992.

It is truly a rags-to-riches story for Suburbs, who went from the mediocrity of 10th last season to the pinnacle of Auckland premier club rugby in just 12 months. And Charlie McAlister's charges fully deserved their moment in the sun after leading defending champions Grammar TEC 12-6 at the break and then hanging on with some staunch defence and audacious attack in a tense second half to ensure the Gallaher has a fourth different winner in the last four years.

Grammar TEC lent on a solid scrum, the boot of Jono Hickey and some industrious work from the likes of No 8 Nil Moala, lock Scott Scrafton and prop Tom McHugh, who shrugged off any pain from turf toe.

But Suburbs always looked more likely on attack and scored the game's two tries, the first to fullback Pisi Leilua, who replaced the sick Lolagi Visinia, after some sweet lead-up work by centre Varasiko Duisokosoko.

A try to Bruno Tuivai was ruled out after the event due to a knock-on, but flanker Shaun Devine was not to be denied after an incisive break by No 12 James Taufa.

The rain started to fall, but it did not deter Suburbs from their expansive game plan allied with tigerish defence and the pack stood tall, with strong displays from No 8 Jaycob Matiu, blindside flanker Luke Cunis and 7ft lock Dean Williams, who made some crucial tackles and turnovers. Emmanuel Ioane stabilised a creaking scrum when he entered the fray.

There were some late hairy moments, but Suburbs held out a final Grammar TEC burst lasting more than 20 phases. Then it was joy unabashed as captain Carl Perry lifted the coveted 94-year-old silverware.

Suburbs 12 (P. Leilua, S. Devine tries; C. Perry con)
Grammar TEC 9 (J. Hickey 3 pens).
Halftime: 12-6.

- NZ Herald

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