Southland's hopes of a semi-final spot in the ITM Cup were all but ended by Bay of Plenty following a 33-22 win on Saturday.
Southland's hopes of a semi-final spot in the ITM Cup were all but ended by Bay of Plenty following a 33-22 win on Saturday, that kept the hosts top four play-off hopes alive.
The Stags showed little urgency until the last 20 minutes, and suffered a third consecutive loss after leading the tournament for the majority of the season.
The Steamers produced a dominant first half to lead the match 20-3 at half-time.
Bay ran in five tries with Mike Delany, Lelia Masaga, Toby Arnold, Taniela Moa and Colin Bourke all scoring. Southland's three tries came from James Wilson, Seminar Manu and Brayden Mitchell.
It was the Steamers final home match of the season, and the team put on quite a spectacle for their home fans.
Bay of Plenty scored their first try just two minutes after kick-off, and were soon 12-o0 up after crossing the line again with less than 10 minutes gone. The Steamers scored twice more before the half-time whistle, to lead Southland by seven points at the break.
The home team extended their lead with the first try of the second half, but Southland got a rare opportunity with the ball about 15 minutes into the half, and James Wilson scored the Stags' first try of the match.
Bay of Plenty looked unbeatable when their captain Colin Bourke added yet another five points to their total, but the tide soon changed when the loosehead prop from each side was sin-binned for exchanging punches.
Southland ran in two converted tries during the next fifteen minutes to come within eight points of the home team, but Bay of Plenty kept possession of the ball for much of the final eight minutes, and kicked a penalty in the 80th minute to seal the victory.
The win moves Bay of Plenty into fourth on the table, while Southland must beat Wellington next week to have any chance at a semi-final spot.
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Delany, Masaga, Arnold, Moa, Bourke
Con: DelanyPens: Delany 2
Tries: Wilson, Manu, Mitchell
Cons: Wilson 2
Bay Of Plenty: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Brett Mather, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Jason Hona, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 John Moore, 3 Tristan Moran, 2 John Pareanga, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Dan Perrin, 17 Joe Savage/James McGougan, 18 Luke Andrews, 19 Solomon King, 20 Chad Tuoro, 21 Nick McCashin, 22 Cory Aporo/Ben Smith.
Southland: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Mark Wells, 13 Tony Koonwaiyou, 12 Matt Saunders, 11 Pehi Te Whare, 10 James Wilson, 9 Scott Cowan, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Joe Tuineau, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Nic Barrett, 18 Alex Ryan, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 Seminar Manu, 22 Dion Bates.
Referee: Garratt Williamson