Southland opens with bonus point win

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Saturday, July 31, 2010    Getty Images

While the side achieved five tries for a bonus point, the win would have caused some concern after it was heavily penalised at the breakdown. However, its fine lineout play through locks Josh Bekhuis and Joe Tuineau was effective and its scrum was solid.

Southland overcame some early issues with interpretations at the tackle breakdown with greater intent when it got the ball in hand. It moved the ball wide quickly and stretched the home team's defence by maintaining possession at vital stages.

Manawatu was guilty of breakdowns at key moments when close to scoring and Southland made it pay. Halfback Aaron Smith had a lively game for Manawatu while fullback Craig Clare was a sound performer. Flanker Nick Crosswell had a competitive battle with John Hardie from Southland.

Hooker Jason Rutledge had an effective game, especially at the breakdown, and at least twice he secured vital turnover ball. Halfback Scott Cowan was a tidy distributor for his backline while James Wilson managed to find space to create two tries with effective breaks.

Southland opened its scoring in the eighth minute when it took play to the blindside from a ruck. First five-eighths James Wilson slipped a tackle and then fed to left-wing Mark Wells who was unmarked to run in for the try. Fullback Robbie Robinson landed a fine conversion from wide out into a head wind.

Manawatu, with the strong breeze, enjoyed a wealth of possession during the first quarter but in its first sortie at the line it turned the ball over and the ball was cleared down the left flank with Bekhuis making a strong run. He linked with five-eighths Matt Saunders and from the ruck that was set up the ball was moved to mid-field where No.8 Elliott Dixon charged onto the ball and broke the first line of defence and had the speed to reach the goal-line for the try.

Robinson again added the conversion before Clare landed successive penalty goals in the 18th, 19th and 26th minutes.

In the 38th minute a lineout take by lock Joe Tuineau saw the ball moved to midfield where centre Kendrick Lynn set up the ruck. Two or three probes resulted as Southland headed towards the line with flanker John Hardie getting close before prop and captain Jamie Mackintosh picked up and lumbered over for the try.

Manawatu was quickly into Southland territory at the start of the second half but some fine work by Rutledge at a breakdown produced a turnover. He ran straight and found Tuineau in support on the off-load. He powered his way upfield in a thrilling run and when taken in a last-gasp tackle by Clare, halfback Scott Cowan was in support to score by the posts.

A penalty move carried Southland into Manawatu's 22m area and from a ruck Wilson found another gap and won the touchdown award from the referee Glenn Newman although television replays suggested the grounding was not as clean as it should have been.

Three minutes later, in the 53rd minute, Manawatu produced a superb lineout move just out from the Southland line. Lock Michael Fitzgerald took the ball near the front of the line and gave it to replacement James Oliver who moved to the blindside where Smith was waiting on the sideline to cross unimpeded for the try. Replacement Shannon Paku landed a fine conversion from the sideline.

Seven minutes from the end, Southland lost replacement hooker Bayden Mitchell to the sin-bin when he paid the price for the breakdown infringement. Manawatu won the resulting lineout and replacement back Tomasi Cama created the opportunity for centre Hadleigh Parkes to score.

Scorers: Manawatu 23 (Aaron Smith, Hadleigh Parkes tries: Shannon Paku 2 con; Craig Clare 3 pen) Southland 37 (Mark Wells, Elliott Dixon, Jamie Mackintosh, Scott Cowan, James Wilson; Robbie Robinson 3 con; Wilson 2 pen). HT: 9-19