The Carisbrook Bush Pigs edged out a brave NZ Forestry Tukapa Bantams in Saturday’s NZ Barbarians Under 85 Club Cup Final, prevailing 32–23 over the home side and taking out the title of national champions.
In hot and fast conditions at TET Stadium in Inglewood, the opening ten minutes saw both teams get a feel for each other before the Bush Pigs broke out some quality back-line play to score in the 11th minute. Jack Leslie, son of former Scottish international John Leslie, was involved with a great offload leading to the try, before missing the conversion from the side-line.
Strong forward play in the 25th minute saw the Bantams work their way into the game and onto the scoreboard, with a converted try closely followed by a penalty seeing them secure a 10-5 lead - marking the first of many lead exchanges through the nail-biting match.
35 minutes in, the Bush Pigs capitalised on a lagging opposition with pacemaker Josh Buchan racing away to score in the corner. The Southerners continued with this momentum, taking a 10-16 lead heading into half time following a successful penalty.
The Bantams started the second half with some determined forward play and scored a try in the 50th minute, closing the gap to 15-16. A penalty kick in the 57th minute created the opportunity for the Bantams to sneak their beaks in front 18-16 - with the lead only lasting a few minutes before another penalty put the Bush Pigs back in front.
Heat and exhaustion started taking its toll in the last 20 minutes, allowing a persevering Bush Pigs the opportunity to claim a couple of penalties, before a nicely constructed combination of forward and back play by the Bantams brought the score back to 23-25. Tukapa unfortunately missed the conversion to tie it up.
The Bush Pigs sealed the win in the 74th minute with a second try to Josh Buchan under the posts following a classy phase of play.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) U85 Competitions Manager, Mike Hester, was pleased to see the 2021 competition completed, and a new winner crowned, following a tumultuous season.
“We’ve seen a great level of competition through 2021 as more teams, clubs and Provincial Unions have gotten behind this initiative. Both teams were well-deserving of their spot in the final following a lengthy campaign, and it was great to see such an expansive style of play which is typical of how this grade plays.
“It has also been tremendous for the competition to get more profile in those Provincial Unions where there is real appetite to grow the under 85 grade. It all bodes really well for 2022 and we’re excited to see what the third instalment will bring.”