Pre kickoff

It was a hot sunny day in Palmerston North for the annual fixtures between OBU and Massey University. The ground was hard and dry as is the custom for preseason fixtures. To be fair, I have seen a lot worse and some of them are close to home (yes I’m looking at you POW).

First order of the day is to thank NZ Universities for sponsoring the bus to get the teams there, it was greatly appreciated.

Premier Reserve match

The premier reserves had a solid hitout and came away with a 57-24 win. I missed the game itself but caught up with a few players and the coaches afterwards. The general feeling was that although not a perfect performance, it was a solid hitout and gives something to work with for the coming weeks.


Premier match scoring

The prems were up next. The scoring started with an intercept inside our 22 for Massey to take a 7-0 lead after about 6 or so minutes of play. It was some ambitious play by the Goats but high risk/high reward cuts both ways sometimes! 0-7

At the 15 minute mark, OBU drew level with a try scored off the back of a tighthead and persistent driving at the line. Difficult to tell amongst the throng of players but we think it was Tiaki Fabish who got it. The OBU scrum proved to be very dominant for the whole match no matter the personnel. Must be down to great teamwork and exceptional coaching. This is a promising sign for the season to come, but we need to remind ourselves it’s still early days and other teams will have something to say about that over the Swindale round. 7-7

Not long after Trevahn Ta’ufo’ou kicked through and fell on the ball for a try that looked far simpler than what it was. Some really good pace there and good control with the boot! Great to see Trevahn back after a great haul of points last season, 9 games for 13 tries! That put OBU ahead.

That was it for scoring until half time. There was the usual early season missed tackle here and there and the occasional dropped pass from both teams, but neither was able to fully capitalise on the mistakes. HT 14-7.

At the 43 minute mark, there was a try out wide to the Massey winger who showed some good gas to run it in. 14-14.

Massey ran another in from good lineout ball and a lovely inside pass for an easy try. That was it for Massey’s side of the scoresheet! 14-21 to Massey.

Massey was in with a sniff here!

Trevahn crossed out wide on the left-wing for his second try off the back of a particularly dominant scrum and quick hands through the backs. 21-21

Substitute hooker Keenan Gillson ran through from just inside the 22 confusing the defence by dummying and swerving. By not committing to the tackle Massey left Keenan to just stroll over without too much attention. Perhaps a bit preoccupied with covering the other strong ball runners on either shoulder or mesmerised by the slinky running! 28-21

Next was a long-range try with some great backs and forwards interplay inside the 22 with Matt Sleith eventually touching down for just reward for his hard work. 35-21.

A very dominant scrum 5 out from the Massey line looked like it was heading for a pushover but mysteriously collapsed forcing the ball into setups for the pick and go. Sam Coombs eventually getting over for the points. FT – 42-21

Eagle-eyed readers will note that there wasn’t a single conversion missed from either side for the whole game. This may have happened but I really don’t know as I was scribbling notes about the tries so gave the benefit of the doubt to the kickers!

How the backs went

There were many good performances and though I’m a bit hesitant to name players for fear of missing someone who had an outstanding game, I will!

In the backs, Sam Reid ran the ball back strongly from fullback committing several players each time. This kind of play will provide plenty of opportunity for inside and outside balls for those running off his shoulder. Should he not get tackled himself, that is!

Callum Harkin looked at home at 1st 5 and is well capable of putting the team into the right parts of the paddock.  Reece Plumtree had a great day always causing the defence issues, although he suffered a knee injury late in the game, hopefully not too serious.

Dale Sabbagh was his usual dangerous self, proving more than a handful. Adam Clarke had one of those days without many opportunities but he got down to business well hunting them out in attack and defence.

Matt Fowler was back in action for the Goats later in the game and had a solid performance although often he was exposed to the opposition coming through due to numbers at the breakdown. I witnessed a great cleanout from the diminutive distributor worthy of some of his bigger forwards!

The starting halfback Kyle Preston also had to contend with the same issues and also did a great job. Then, of course, Trevahn on the left wing who looks to have bulked up since last season but has lost none of his trademark pace. A double ‘T’ against his name says it all!

Ty Poe was full of running and appeared to enjoy the contact. Jack Green got a bit of time toward the end of the match but didn’t see much ball. Jack is a true OBU man and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of his skill and pace this season.

How the forwards went

In the forwards, I’ll just say all of the front-rowers were outstanding at scrum time. From the seasoned campaigner Jon Fuimaono, right through to the players making their debut there was undoubted strength at the scrums. We may have lost Finbarr to an Auckland lifestyle choice but we have solid replacements now including Morgan Poi who will be looking for higher honours again in the back half of this season. Luke Chisolm made a solid debut from the bench and added to the effort! Sam Coombs was worth much more around the field than just the try he got as was Keenan Gillson with his try and general play.

The lineouts were a bit up and down (pardon the pun), but Paddy Carter was always in a position to contest. The other lock James Poloniati is a strong ball runner and adds some real grunt at the breakdowns. Sam Green came on and got up high in the lineouts and contributed to the contest all across the park from there.

The loose trio worked very hard with the ball in hand and off the ball on defence. Sam Godwin came on early after an injury to Sam O’Brien (Hopefully not too serious). Sam G was industrious, there weren’t many plays that he wasn’t involved in for the rest of the game!

Last years Colts green champions Tiaki Fabish and Josh Gimblett covered a lot of ground in the loose and were physical at the breakdowns at #8 & #7 respectively. These two are a talented pair that I am really looking forward to watching this season!

Matt Sleith was a great addition to the Goats last season on the side of the scrum and it appears that nothing is going to be different this year, he was very busy around all aspects of the game!

The work-ons

Hard to be critical after a dominant performance like that but one of the key things that us fans will hope to see over the next few weeks are keeping the intensity for 80 minutes. There was a period in the first half where a couple of tackles were missed and some pass accuracy was off for a while. Put it down to new combinations in the preseason!

There were a few mistakes at the lineout which let Massey off the hook a couple of times. Getting that right will come with more time playing together to build the timing and combinations.

I’m sure the team would love to get the penalty count down a bit too but expect referees to be tough on tackles, high balls, rucks and mauls and scrums and… well everything really!

It wasn’t that bad but keeping the pressure on the opposition is far easier without conceding them.

The team

The team as best we know it. These always vary on the day so is probably not completely accurate. If you played but I haven’t credited you, then please feel free to flick me a message and I will be happy to update

  1. Morgan Poi
  2. Luke Gilbert
  3. Jon Fuimaono
  4. Paddy Carter
  5. James Poloniati
  6. Sam O’Brien
  7. Josh Gimblett
  8. Tiaki Fabish
  9. Kyle Preston
  10. Callum Harkin
  11. Trevahn Ta’ufo’ou
  12. Dale Sabbagh
  13. Reece Plumtree
  14. Adam Clarke
  15. Sam Reid
  16. Luke Chisholm
  17. Sam Coombs
  18. Sam Godwin
  19. Matt Sleith
  20. Sam Green
  21. Matt Fowler
  22. Ty Poe
  23. Keenan Gillson
  24. Jack Green