Coach Nigel Castles says his Dannevirke Sports Club Senior team had things under control 26-20 with five minutes to play in the final of the Manawatu Division Two Rugby competition on Saturday at Massey University against Freyberg Old Boys. But he admitted Freyberg played well and had scored last to close the gap to six points.
Having confidence his team would close out the match however was born of experience throughout the season, the team losing only one match and having held out in the semifinal against College Old Boys.
All season the success of the team has been based on an aggressive, skilled and well-drilled forward pack and tactics were designed to exploit this advantage with a very good backline guided by first five-eighths Will Hands gaining the benefit of front foot ball and defending strongly.
So it was on Saturday when, like in the semifinal, the forwards laid the platform in a very tight first half, Dannevirke leading 11-10 at half-time thanks to two Will Hands penalties and a try to No 8 Liam Richardson to a converted try and a penalty to Freyberg.
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The second half saw Dannevirke capitalise on their forward power with two tries from driving mauls, particularly off the lineout to Taylor Lowe, one conversion and a penalty making up Dannevirke's 26 points.
Freyberg retaliated with two unconverted tries out wide late in the game but, as the coach expected, Dannevirke controlled possession to snuff out any late upset.
The game was played in fine, calm conditions although a slight breeze blew up late to help Dannevirke. Coach Castles said Freyberg definitely came to compete but better Dannevirke tactics employing the kick and chase was the difference.
A huge contingent of Dannevirke supporters cheered the team on and the game was streamed live in the Merrylees Hotel for those unable to make the trip over the hill.
This is the third consecutive year Dannevirke Sports Senior Rugby have won the Houlihan Cup and the third cup they collected during 2021 for winning rounds one and two on the way to the final.