Waikato were left to rue four missed penalty attempts as Southland went on to record a historic 7-6 ITM Cup win on Thursday – the Stags' first in Hamilton.
Waikato were left to rue four missed penalty attempts as Southland went on to record a historic 7-6 ITM Cup win on Thursday – the Stags' first victory in Hamilton.
It was the Ranfurly Shield holders' seventh win from eight games this season, and once again their defence proved pivotal as sixth-placed Waikato were kept scoreless for the entire second half.
Former All Blacks pivot Stephen Donald, on as a replacement for Waikato, had the chance to clinch the lead midway through the half but hooked his kick to the left.
And, in the last play of the game, Donald then hooked a last-gasp drop goal which would have won the match for the Mooloo Men.
It was a game that the hosts should have won after dominating territory (67 per cent), the breakdowns (64-29 )a nd forced Southland to make 67 tackles to 30. But turnovers cost them dearly after they conceded 15-7, mostly in good attacking positions.
Waikato were first on the scoresheet thanks to a Trent Renata penalty in the fourth minute of the match, but Southland replied with a well-taken try in the 11th minute.
After a strong midfield break, Southland centre Kendrick Lynn got on the outside of Waikato centre Christian Lealiifano and showed too much pace for the cover defence.
Robbie Robinson added the extras for a 7-3 lead which stood until 10 minutes from the final whistle, when Renata added another penalty when prop Chris King was strangely penalised at a scrum for patting his opponent on the ear.
Waikato's frustrations grew as the game progressed, as they secured a ready supply of ball and good field position but couldn't translate that to points on the board. The result was Southland ahead 7-6 at the break.
Ten minutes into the second spell, Waikato coach Chris Gibbes benched Renata and Donald took the field for the first time in four months since a chest injury curtailed his season.
Waikato finally found some continuity, battering the Southland line only to be denied by some outstanding defence – hooker Jason Rutledge pulling off a try-saving tackle to deny opposite number Aled de Malmanche.
Pens: Renata 2
Waikato: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Dwayne Sweeney, 10 Trent Renata, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Zac Hohneck, 6 Jack Lam, 5 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White (c), 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 Ben May, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Alex Bradley, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Henry Speight.
Southland: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Tony Koonwaiyou, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Matt Saunders, 11 James Paterson, 10 Robbie Robinson, 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/Hua Tamariki, 19 Dion Bates, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 Seminar Manu, 22 Mark Wells.