Stags re­veal a stub­born streak

The Southland Times - - SPORT - LO­GAN SA­VORY

Hoani Macdon­ald’s frus­tra­tion was ob­vi­ous af­ter South­land’s 27-17 loss to Auck­land last night.

The South­land Stags coach’s frus­tra­tion didn’t flow from the ef­fort his team showed, and the stub­born­ness the Stags play­ers of­fered on de­fence for 80 min­utes. The frus­trated look steamed from the fact they let slip a game which he felt was there to win.

The Stags took the game deep into the con­test, which was some­thing many peo­ple want to see from them.

The tal­ented Auck­land out­fit strug­gled to break South­land down for a ma­jor­ity of the game, but the end out­come for South­land was still zero com­pe­ti­tion points.

‘‘The 80 minute ef­fort yes, but we could have been a bit smarter,’’ Macdon­ald said when asked if he was happy with what his team pro­duced.

‘‘We made a heap of tack­les. I’d say we would have made 150 tack­les at least, and for the boys to keep mak­ing the ef­fort they did af­ter mak­ing all those tack­les is pleas­ing, but we just didn’t quite get it right.

‘‘For me that game was there for the tak­ing, we left that out there. So that is the frus­tra­tion be­cause we know we can win th­ese games. We are do­ing good things and hope­fully the peo­ple of South­land can see that, we just need to be smarter,’’ he said.

South­land scored af­ter just three min­utes of play when the Stags for­wards went to work and it was hooker and cap­tain Bray­den Mitchell who crashed over from close range.

In dif­fi­cult kick­ing con­di­tions Scott Eade landed the con­ver­sion from out wide to make it 7-0.

For the next 15 min­utes Auck­land went on at­tack but came up empty-handed as Auck­land lacked pol­ish, in par­tic­u­lar their li­ne­out, while the South­land de­fence re­mained staunch.

It took a left-field try to fi­nally break South­land in the 26th minute when No 8 Jerome Kaino plucked the ball out of a ruck 5m from the line and waltzed over largely un­touched.

Auck­land were back in again five min­utes later when flanker Blake Gib­son found him­self in the clear be­fore set­ting up right winger Vince Aso to make it 12-7.

How­ever, just when Auck­land looked to take charge South­land were able to strike back when lock Tepasu Thomas spot­ted a gap be­fore feed­ing half­back Liam How­ley on the in­side who was able to score.

The Eade ex­tras pushed South­land in front at 14-12, but they did lose How­ley, who in­jured his leg in the process of scor­ing and was forced from the field.

It meant some reshuf­fling with Eade go­ing from first five-eighth into half­back and Greg Dyer com­ing off the bench.

Auck­land did have the fi­nal say in the first half through a Jono Hickey penalty, so they went into the break 15-14 up.

Six min­utes into the sec­ond half a Greg Pleas­ants-Tate try ex­tended the lead to eight points.

A penalty from Eade in the 65th minute nar­rowed the gap, but just when hopes floated over the home crowd, Auck­land were able to find some­thing to keep their noses in front, with blind­side flanker Taleni Seu scor­ing a de­ci­sive try to give them a the 27-17 win.

Auck­land will now spend some time in Queen­stown pre­par­ing for the next game against Otago in Dunedin on Thurs­day.

For South­land, they will head north to take on Bay of Plenty in Ro­torua on Wed­nes­day be­fore head­ing to Nel­son to take on Tas­man next Sun­day.

The good news for South­land is How­ley’s leg in­jury isn’t as bad as first thought and the hope is he’ll be right by Wed­nes­day night’s game against Bay of Plenty.

ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

South­land’s Tepasu Thomas, left, and Bray­den Mitchell wrap up Auck­land’s Taleni Seu at Rugby Park in In­ver­cargill last night

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