Southland holds North Harbour
Friday, September 10, 2010 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
There had been criticism of the Stags' back play but midfielders Kenny Lynn and Matt Saunders and fullback Glen Horton were in sparkling form while hooker Jason Rutledge, prop Jamie Mackintosh and locks Joe Tuineau and Josh Bekhuis were at the heart of a committed forward effort.
North Harbour impressed in patches but was disappointing overall. Michael Harris had a fine game at first five-eighths but Harbour did not have the forward power to combat the Stags.
Southland was defending the shield for the fifth time this season and North Harbour was attempting to win it for the only the second time.
Southland started the match in second place with 21 points while Harbour was 11th with nine points.
Robinson kicked off in front of a crowd of about 10,000 after a heavy shower had left the surface greasy on top.
The Stags made the best possible start, scoring after three minutes. Hooker Rutledge drove on and Matt Saunders, from 22 metres out, beat three tackles as he sidestepped his way to the line. Robinson converted to make it 7-0.
The game was played at a frantic pace with just one penalty in the first 17 minutes.
Harbour equalised after 18 minutes when centre Jack Tarrant committed the defence and left wing Nafi Tuitavake beat three tacklers on a 40 metre sprint to the line. Harris converted from the sideline and it was seven-all.
But Southland took the lead again after 23 minutes when Rutledge hoofed the ball downfield from a turnover, Scott Cowan cross-kicked from the ensuing ruck and Mackintosh grabbed the rebound from wing James Paterson to score in the corner. Robinson converted well to make it 14-7.
And it became 21-7 just before halftime when, after a long run down the left touch by centre Lynn, halfback Scott Cowan was in support to take the in-pass and score. Robinson converted.
Southland had a slight edge in territory and possession in the first half, and strung together more phases, but its 14-poin lead was more a consequence of it taking its opportunities to finish off.
Southland started the second spell as it began the first, with a bang. Lynn made the intial break and forwards Mackintosh, John Hardie and Josh Bekhuis all handled before fullback Glen Horton scored in the corner to make it 26-7.
But North Harbour struck back six minutes into the half with an 80-metre try which began from a Southland turnover. Harris received on halfway and outpaced the cover defence to a try in the corner, which he converted himself. It was 26-14 and Harbour was back in the game.
But Southland scored its fifth try six minutes later, Lynn spotting a gap and sprinting 30 metres to the posts from a standing start. Robinson converted and the Stags led 33-14.
Southland was playing with a lot of confidence and scored its sixth try, one of its best of the season, 13 minutes from the end after numerous players combined before Tony Koonwaiyou scored in the corner. Robinson converted to make it 40-14.
Malaki Ravulo scored a late consolation try for Harbour but it was too little and too late, Lynn racing half the length of the field to score his second for the Stags.
Southland 40 (Matt Saunders, Jamie Mackintosh, Scott Cowan, Glenn Horton, Kendrick Lynn 2, Tony Koonwaiyou tries; Robbie Robinson six con) North Harbour 21 (Nafi Tuitavake, Mike Harris, Malaki Ravulo tries; Harris 3con). HT: 21-7.
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