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Northland end Stags' winning run

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Saturday, September 4, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

It was a contest between the Northland backs and the Southland forwards, the Northland backs carrying the day.

Rene Ranger and Jared Payne were in devastating form while David Holwell provided the solidity and Lachie Munro had another fine game at fullback.

The props, Jamie Mackintosh and Chris King, scored Southland's three tries between them but the Stags were caught betwixt and between with their game plan, unsure whether to attack Northland through the forwards or to play a wide game.

Northland took the maximum five points from the match but Southland went unrewarded.
Southland began the match in top place on the ladder with 21 points while Northland was ninth with 11.

Southland was coming off a hard-earned 21-16 win over Tasman while Northland was seeking its third win after a heart-breaking 31-28 loss to Wellington.

In-form hooker Jason Rutledge was rested from the Stags' starting lineup and replaced by his plumbing apprentice, Brayden Mitchell, while centre Kenny Lynn was playing his 50th game for the province.

Robinson kicked an early pressure after intense Southland pressure but Northland soon responded with a try by Ranger, who raced 25m to the line after the Stags' tried to run the ball out from their 22 and Dion Bates threw a loose pass.

Northland scored its second try after 14 minutes when the ball came untidily out of the side of a Southland ruck and flanker Dan Pryor gathered and sprinted 30m to the line to make it 10-3.

Midway through the half Southland again turned the ball over and, from 60m out, Northland launched a counter-attack which ended with Payne scoring after he was put in the clear by Ranger. Munro's conversion made it 20-3.

Southland turned down several easy penalty attempts as it strived for its first try and was denied again when Mackintosh thought he had scored from a lineout drive.

Seven minutes before halftime Southland's persistence finally paid off when prop Chris King barged over after constant pressure from the forwards.

Southland scored its second try three minutes before halftime when the Stags decimated the Northland scrum, Tim Boys made the turnover and Mackintosh crashed over. Robinson's conversion made it 20-15.

Southland had dominated territory and possession, the penalty count (10-4) and spent 10 minutes to four in the opposition but mistakes and turnovers had cost it dearly as it strayed from its usual percentage game plan.

Pryor was sin-binned seven minutes for constant infringement seven minutes into the second spell but it was Northland which profited.

Ranger split the Stags' defence apart in a 70m run past tackler aftrer tackler and, when he was finally tackled, Payne was at his shoulder to score under the posts. Munro's conversion made it 27-15.

Southland tried desperately to strike back but it made too many errors as it was caught between the mindset of all-out attack and a more forward-orientated game plan.

Finally, 10 minutes from the end, Mackintosh barrelled over for his second try, Robinson converted and Southland was back to within five points of the Taniwha.

But five minutes later Munro kicked a wide-angled penalty to extend Northland's lead to 30-22 and put it outside the seven-point range.

Scorers were:

Northland 33 (Rene Ranger, Dan Pryor, Jared Payne 2 tries; Lachie Munro 3 con, 2 pen)
Southland 22 (Chris King, Jamie Mackintosh 2 tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con, pen). HT: 20-15