Manawatu secure last win at Southland's expense

Getty Images

Sunday, October 14, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, second five-eighths Ngani Laumape and flanker Jackson Hemopo all made significant contributions to Manawatu's win and gave 80 minutes service each, Laumape scoring two tries and Hemopo one, but there was a heavy defensive requirement as the least successful side in the competition, Southland took the attack to Manawatu.

Mistakes at key moments, Southland's bugbear many times during the year, denied them more success but they could feel satisfied with the quality of some of the tries they scored.

Southland could not have made a worse start. Lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit dropped the kick-off and from a penalty awarded for an off-side play, Manawatu kicked to the corner, worked a maul that crabbed across the field and it was Hemopo who touched the ball down at the base of a goalpost for the try.

Wing Junior Laloifi had a try awarded in the 13th minute, but before the conversion was taken referee Paul Williams saw a replay in which Laloifi's foot hit the sideline and the try was over-ruled.

Southland cleared the line initially but Manawatu mustered from the lineout, saw another Laumape carry play forward. It was worked right for Milner-Skudder set play up on the right, and when it came left, Laumape came out of the second line, took the gap and fed skipper and flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri in for a try.

Southland struck back, however, with a long-range try, initiated by fullback Lewis Ormond, who made two backhand offloads in the play, linking with No.8 Tony Lamborn and first five-eighths James Wilson with Isaac Te Tamaki making good ground before prop Morgan Mitchell lumbered through to take a support pass and score.

That seemed to lift Southland and they unleashed another fine run from their own half when from a turnover second five-eighths Raymond Nu'u broke through in midfield to run hard into space and when tackled he slipped the ball back for Wilson who was well placed in support to score to level the scores at 14-14.

That All Black connection helped Manawatu again in the 32nd minute with a scrum out from Southland's line. Milner-Skudder took the ball at first receiver, charged into the tackle and slipped the ball to Laumape for the try.

Southland levelled again with another fine try at the start of the second half, initiated by a Lamborn turnover but capitalised on by some fine elusive play by Nu'u and support from Morgan and hooker Jesse MacDonald before the ball was cleared to the backs where Wilson's long pass allowed Ormond to run into the gap.

But having looked so likely a simple thing like a charge down of a Wilson 22m clearing kick saw Kiri Kiri score his second to rock the visitors again.

Laumape scored again in the 58th minute when after a long period on attack, Black slipped a kick through to the goalline and it sat up perfectly for Laumape to snatch it down to score. That was in contrast to a similar play for Southland where the bounce from a Wilson kick was wicked, denying two players and resulting in a knock-on conceded.

There was another comeback from Southland when after a nine-phase play another long pass from Wilson allowed Ormond to score his second try.

The last play of the game summed up Southland's season, replacement wing Aleki Morris-Lome was diving for a try in the corner but the ball dropped free after his arm was knocked by Manawatu fullback Sam Malcolm.

Scorers: Manawatu 38 (Jackson Hemopo, Antonio Kiri Kiri 2, Ngane Laumape 2 tries; Otere Black 4 con; Jade Te Rure pen) Southland 26 (Morgan Mitchell, James Wilson, Lewis Ormond 2 tries; Wilson 3 con). HT: 21-14