In the most closely contested Southern Zone Premier Rugby League competition to date, with the last round of games resulting in a three-way tie on competition points, it was the Otago Whalers who won the right to represent the South in the game against the top North district.
Otago, Southland and Aoraki each sustained only one loss in the round-robin games and so had to be separated by points differential. Going into the final games there were several possible scenarios. However, the 38-22 defeat of Southland not only gave Otago enough wins but also enough points to lift their differential above the other two districts.
As the case throughout the competition, the final weekend of games was incredibly close with Otago winning 38-22 over Southland and Aoraki beating West Coast with a try scored in the last play of the game. Top Canterbury referee Jason Wilson who has officiated in every season of the competition has said that the standard of play and the intensity shown this year was significantly higher than when the competition first started and is a credit to the work being done in the districts.
Tasman referee Eric Kneepkens who refereed the West Coast Aoraki game said that he thoroughly enjoyed the game – the spirit in which it was played was excellent. This has been a feature of the competition as well.
Southern Zone General Manager Steve Martin is thrilled with the competition. “To have such an even competition with the games going down to the wire is fantastic. This competition is the shop window for South Island Rugby League and as such we couldn’t ask for a better advertisement for the game. The addition of the Canterbury Maori team added real value to the competition, and it is hoped that they as well as the Tasman Titans will feature again in 2020.”