Johnsonville's 'Hell Park' lived up to its nickname on Saturday as our Premiers used a 'get out of jail free card' to escape with a bonus point win to retain their spot atop the Swindale Shield table with one round to play.
After MSP took the lead on the seven minute mark, Johnsonville hit back soon after and would lead most of the next 65 minutes. The home side turned in a performance that proved they are capable of much more than their 13th place suggests. They took all their opportunities and defended stoically. At the half time mark the Hawks led by 19-5.
Coach Zak Feaunati rang some changes at half time introducing regular captain Tom Martin and powerhouse prop Tui Tuiatua; as a result the side entered the second stanza with more intent. After scoring two tries in the first 20 minutes, they leveled the score at 19-19. But after spending almost all that time in their own half, Johnsonville immediately struck back to again take the lead at 24-19 with about 10 minutes to play.
After waves and waves of attack our Premiers eventually crossed the line only for the touch judge to intervene and reverse the call. Minutes later, however, the Red Machine would take the lead after Andrew Wells crossed the line and converted his own try with a blustery wind at his back. Final score 26-24 to Marist St Pats.
The game will serve as a wake up call for the Premiers who will win the Swindale Shield if they beat Wellington on Evans Bay Park next Saturday.
In other grades, our Under 85s also came from behind in their semi final against Poneke. They reversed a 0-17 half time deficit to win by 34-3! They will face Wellington in the Tony O'Brien Shield final next weekend.
Our Premier Reserves again won by default. We are awaiting the Internationals and Presidents results at the time of writing.