The Central Giants and the Southern Saints have played out the best opening round match in Premiership history. With multiple lead changes, the Giants snuck home to defeat the defending Premiers by 2 points.
It was a blistering start by both sides as the game rained goals in the opening term. The Saints kicked 6 goals to 3 as they looked to continue their 6 game undefeated run, dating back to the start of 2020.
The Giants, through James Southby and Xavier Rice, clawed their way back in the second quarter to make it a one point deficit at half time. Giants Captain, Harison Manks was strong in defence.
The lead changed four times in the third quarter. Southby and Rice were on song again, while Joseph Ligaliga kicked a goal for the Saints on his return to the Premiership.
Brandon Phillips kicked an early goal in the final term as the Giants regained the lead. It was a tight tussle for the next 15 minutes until debutant, Kikorangi Hibbs took a strong mark in the forward line for the Saints in the dying minutes and kicked true to make it a 2 point ball game. The Saints ran out of time as the Giants hung on to get the win.
The Giants face the Northern Suns in round 2, while the Saints and Crows rekindle their rivalry.
Xavier Rice was the Giants number 1 pick in the National Draft and he didn’t disappoint. Rice was phenomenal in his debut game, kicking 4 goals and running amok in the midfield.
The support cast:
James Southby might be in a new jumper in 2021, but his accuracy in front of goal is still the same. The full forward from Canterbury kicked 3 goals for the game including a 50 metre bomb into the wind.
The consolation effort:
Kieran Charlton kept the Saints in the game after an outstanding best on ground performance in defence. With multiple contested and intercept marks, Charlton is fast becoming a big name in NZ footy.
“We knew the Saints would be tough today and the standard of footy played during the game was brilliant. We still need to iron out a few things in the weeks ahead, but I’m happy with the result.” Justin Gauci, Central Giants.
“The Giants played some great open, running footy today and deserved the win.” Sean Mayes, Saints Head Coach.
Central Giants: Xavier Rice 4, James Southby 3, Brandon Phillips 1
Southern Saints: Josh Robles 2, Justin Du Toit 2, Harley Jenkins 1, Kiko Hibbs 1, Alex Fakatoumafi 1, Joseph Ligaliga 1, Dylan Mair 1
Best on ground:
Central Giants: Xavier Rice
Southern Saints: Kieran Charlton