Thursday, 12 August 2010

It was a surprise to me last weekend, amidst all the excitement of the historic Otago Ranfurly Shield challenge, to find the Scream Team was about to pass a significant milestone.

I love him like a brother but Lee Piper is prone to hyperbole. So when he declared we were about to commentate our 200th first class rugby game, I took it with a grain of salt and thought he was up to his old tricks of an eye for the main chance, leveraging a bit of shameless self promotion off a huge event.

Then the accountant in me clicked into gear. We’ve been calling Southland’s games since 1995. For the first few years we travelled with the side on the away games. Throw in several years of commentating Highlanders games, two to three years of calling the test matches in the South Island for the now defunct Independent Radio Rugby Network, a stellar but brief career with Sky’s interactive rugby channel and even a junket to Asia to commentate on the Hong Kong Tens and the games do mount up.

Southland Times sports editor, Nathan Burdon, has asked us to come up with our three most memorable matches. I don’t know about Piper’s but here goes for mine:

No 3: As rugby spectacles go, it was no great shakes, but Otago’s challenge has to be right up there as a rugby occasion. The seething throngs of people walking together to the game, the train, the buses, the brass band playing – it transported me back to my boyhood and going to Rugby Park with my father. It was history before our very eyes and Southland’s first successful defense of the Log of Wood since 1946.

No 2: Not surprisingly this one also involves the Ranfurly Shield and the finest 40 minutes ever played by a Southland team in my lifetime. In 1997 Southland trailed Graham Henry’s star-studded Auckland side 27-8 at halftime at Eden Park, only to fall short 34-32 in the dying moments when Adrian Cashmore collared a flying Phil Taylor with an open try line beckoning.

No. 1: I know it’s cheating because we weren’t actually calling the game. But we were there and I will take the memories of October 22, 2009, to my Riversdale grave. Southland 9, Canterbury 3 – the score is tattooed in my brain. Defending the Shield is one thing. Winning it is even sweeter!


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