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McKenzie seals it for Southland

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Sunday, September 22, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Southland scored a four-try bonus point win and moved to second place on the Championship ladder while McKenzie took 17 points from the game.

Southland paid the price for a slow start, and a feast of penalties conceded to be down 5-16 at halftime.

But they came out from their halftime rev up, to make the most of North Harbour failing to cover a kick ahead. Flanker Tim Boys tidied the ball and lock Michael Fatialofa charged ahead and when the ball was moved first five-eighths Marty McKenzie created the gap and got over for the try.

Eight minutes later, McKenzie kicked superbly to the corner, tidying up some bedraggled play. North Harbour, five metres from their line, failed to take the lineout ball.

Flanker John Hardie secured it and it was won from the ruck and flung to McKenzie. He threw a long pass which Vaega took only to be dragged down millimetres short of the line. As the ruck formed McKenzie was on hand to spin around the blindside to touch down for his second try to give Southland the lead for the first time in the game.

It proved short-lived as North Harbour struck back when replacement halfback Bryn Hall sneaked around the blindside of a ruck close to Southland's line to score wide out.

McKenzie couldn't stay out of the action and with 20 minutes left, he put a kick behind the North Harbour backs and from the lineout resulting from the defenders kicking the ball out, the ball was moved across in front of the posts where replacement flanker Hale T Pole scrambled over for the try.

Southland looked to score another and were mounting an attack when an attempted long pass from Hardie was picked up by centre Pita Ahki and he raced 80m to score the heartbreaker for the home team.

However, a superb run by Willis Halaholo break the Harbour defences and when he was stopped short of the line, flanker Tim Boys was perfectly placed to take the ball and drop over the line to score.

And then with the score tied, Southland built up the perfect play in midfield and the dropped goal was taken by McKenzie.

North Harbour made a good start to the game, taking advantage of Southland's inability to settle and ultimately that proved costly. An early penalty goal to Jon Elrick was backed by a try to flanker Jordan Manihera, who did some superb lead-up work to drive the ball at the line, left it for his pack to come up in support and then got back onto his feet to power over for the try.

It wasn't until the 35th minute that Southland were able to string together a half-decent attack. It stemmed from a clean lineout take which was cleared for first five-eighths Marty McKenzie to take a half-break before feeding second five-eighths Willis Halaholo. He took the ball, raced ahead and fed centre Cardiff Vaega the perfect pass for him to cross for the try.

However, in play that was typical of Southland's first half, a penalty was conceded which Elrick goaled.

Wing David Raikuna always looked dangerous and twice looked likely to score but on the first occasion was pushed out in the corner and the second saw him over, but called back for a forward pass.


Scorers: Southland 34 (Cardiff Vaega, Marty McKenzie 2, Hale T Pole, Tim Boys tries; Scott Eade con; McKenzie 2 con, dropped goal) North Harbour 31 (Jordan Manihera, Bryn Hall, Pita Ahki tries; Jon Elrick 2 con, 4 pen). HT: 5-16