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Southland do it again

23rd September 2010 10:55

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Matt Berquist auckland v southland

Shield retained: Tenacious defence from the Stags once again

Southland defended the Ranfurly Shield for the sixth time this season after beating Auckland 9-6 in a hard fought ITM Cup battle at Rugby Park.

With the two best defences in the competition going head-to-head, it was a war of attrition as neither team was willing to give an inch, and it was reflected on the scoreboard with not a single try scored.

Instead it was Southland pivot Robbie Robinson who landed three penalties to Matt Berquist's two to clinch the win and retain the famous Log o' Wood for yet another week.

Remarkably it was 51 years to the day from the last time Auckland successfully challenged for the Ranfurly Shield against Southland, when Sir Fred Allen's team defeated the southerners 13-9 at Rugby Park in 1959.

But the crop of 2010 were unable to achieve the same feat as their predecessors as they fell just short.

Auckland ripped into their work with vigour from the offset, the forward pack muscling up supremely against the miserly Southland defence to dominate territory and possession.

Their quick ball and ability to build numerous phases produced plenty of opportunities for the backs as Berquist, Brent Ward and Dave Thomas in particular made searing breaks.

But a number of dropped passes and conceding a turnover at a crucial moment ruined any chances the visitors had of quelling the parochial Southland crowd as the home side capitalised on their only opportunity of the half to take a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.

Auckland looked to have struck back five minutes from half-time as Onosa'i Auva'a burrowed over from close range. But the TMO adjudged the ball had been held up as a match-turning try went begging.

Auckland did however manage to get on the scoreboard on the stroke of half-time, Berquist landing a penalty from 35 metres out to tie the scores at 3-all at the break.

Berquist and Robinson both traded two early penalties before Southland began to find their rhythm and made good inroads in close against a tiring Auckland defence.

Robinson fluffed a kick at goal after 67 minutes, but two minutes later nailed a penalty from almost exactly the same spot to clinch what proved to be the match-winning kick.

Auckland rallied late in the match and once again found themselves in a prime position to crash over the try-line, but misdirected passes and composure at crucial times let Southland off the hook as the Ranfurly Shield remains in the deep south.

The scores:

For Southland:
Pens: Robinson 3

For Auckland:
Pens: Berquist

Southland: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Mark Wells, 13 Tony Koonwaiyou, 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 Nick Barrett, 18 Alex Ryan, 19 Dion Bates, 20 Sony Rangitoheriri, 21 Seminar Manu, 22 Pehi Te Whare.

Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Dave Thomas, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Chay Raui, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Onosa'i Auva'a, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 John Afoa.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Winston Stanley.

Referee: Vinny Munro

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