Close, but not close enough

The Southland Times - - SPORT - LO­GAN SAVORY

South­land have come up just short in their at­tempt to win the Michael Jones Cup ti­tle at the na­tional un­der-19 rugby tour­na­ment played in Taupo.

South­land beat Taranaki and a Heart­land XV to book a place in Satur­day’s fi­nal against Coun­ties Manukau - which ef­fec­tively was a play­off for 9th place at the 16-team tour­na­ment.

The Daryl Thomp­son-coached team showed glimpses of bril­liance in the fi­nal and were able to run in five tries but it was Coun­ties who came out with their noses in front at 33-31.

Ref­eree Jono Bredin’s whis­tle dom­i­nated the first half as both teams strug­gled to rack up a large num­ber of phases on at­tack as the penalty count and er­ror rate stacked up.

It was at the 24min mark when Coun­ties Manukau fi­nally opened the scor­ing when sec­ond five-eighth Prince Sau­mani run a di­rect line from a scrum 5m from South­land’s line to score.

Just a mat­ter of three min­utes later South­land re­sponded with a good try of their own.

From a close range li­ne­out the South­land for­wards played their part and went close to scor­ing be­fore it was quickly shifted to the blind­side where first five-eighth Mitch Tay­lor flicked it on nicely to right wing Re­gan Wil­son who did well in lim­ited space to score.

South­land’s first half de­fence was gen­er­ally good but a de­fen­sive lapse just min­utes out from half­time cost them as they let in their sec­ond try to go into the break 14-5 down.

South­land were able to re­spond just a mat­ter of min­utes into the sec­ond half through Wil­son’s sec­ond try.

South­land were awarded a penalty in handy po­si­tion and half­back Jay Ren­ton opted to take a quick tap.

He sent the ball wide to big No 8 Vil­iame Tosi who was able to get a pass away to the un­marked Wil­son to score.

How­ever, the two teams were trad­ing tries.

Coun­ties Manukau No 8 Fui­tati Aso­mua was able to score the first of his two sec­ond half tries be­fore Tay­lor chimed in with a bit of in­di­vid­ual bril­liance.

From a close range scrum, the South­land first five-eighth got the ball at first re­ceiver, spot­ted a gap and took it as he went in largely un­touched to score which brought the score back to 21-17.

The trend of trad­ing tries was how­ever bro­ken as Coun­ties scored two tries in a mat­ter of min­utes to push out to 33-17 with just over 10 min­utes to play which was a telling fac­tor.

But yet South­land still hadn’t run out of fight as they again got field po­si­tion and from a li­ne­out drive hooker and cap­tain Jaya More was able to score in the 61st minute. His fifth try in the three games of the tour­na­ment.

The Ren­ton con­ver­sion re­duced it to 33-24.

While the re­sult was all but sorted South­land was able to have the fi­nal say in the fi­nal minute of through an­other More try as South­land brought the fi­nal score closer at 33-31.

While the end re­sult wasn’t what South­land were af­ter some in­di­vid­ual play­ers did show enough to sug­gest they could be key fig­ures long-term for South­land rugby.

First five-eighth headed that queue.

He was South­land’s most danger­ous at­tack­ing threat through­out the fi­nal, both through his run­ning game and is nice pass­ing skills.

Half­back Jay Ren­ton again was good and with his un­der-19 com­mit­ments done he may well now link up with the Stags dur­ing the re­main­der of their Mitre 10 Cup cam­paign.

More and loose­head prop Sy Waiti were also good in the fron­trow for South­land. Mitch Tay­lor

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