Easter Northern Barbarians players will be hurting after a narrow loss to defending champion Marist in the premier club rugby competition on Saturday.
Barbarians lost 27-26 to Marist after leading at halftime 26-10 at the Gore A&P Showgrounds.
Coach Nathan Howden was happy his side was able to push Marist to its full extent.
“Marist has been the benchmark all season. It was a good test for our young team.
“Sometimes a close loss is better than beating somebody by 50-odd points,” Howden said.
Kept scoreless in the second half, the Barbarians players were unable to get their hands on any ball.
“We just couldn’t get anything and made some poor decisions at crucial moments.
“It’s a hard to defend for a whole half.”
If the Barbarians were more clinical in the last five minutes of the game, it might have had a different outcome, he said.
In the first half, Marist came out of the blocks with a hiss and a roar and took advantage of penalties the Barbarians gave away.
Barbarians players soon rose to the challenge and the momentum went with them.
“We had a very, very good first half,” Howden said.
Fullback Chad Kleinsmidt scored a stunning try to help push his team ahead.
Barbarians looked dominant at scrum time.
“The scrum was strong. It’s something that’s always been good for us.”
Lock Albert Qoro impressed Howden with his ability to carry the ball for his side.
“He was good there. He got through some real core work for us,” he said.
In the end it was a conversion from former Southland Stag and Marist fullback Scott Eade which stuck the final nail in the coffin for the Barbarians.
Howden was proud of the heart his team played with in the first three rounds.
“Over the past three weeks we’ve slowly improved and gotten better each game. It’s been great to see.”
On Saturday, the Barbarians would take on Te Anau for the first time.
“It’ll be a pretty hard game. They’re tracking well and have some good backs so we’ll need to be on our game,” he said.
In the other pool one game, Edendale lost to Te Anau 28-24. In pool two, Wyndham beat Waikaka 38-22 while Riversdale defaulted to the Blues.