Last-gasp try saves Shield for Southland

13th Aug 2011, 10:38

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Dramatic victory: Southland celebrate

Dramatic victory: Southland celebrate

Southland needed a try after the hooter to snatch a 25-23 victory over North Harbour and retain the Ranfurly Shield on Saturday.

Southland needed a try after the full-time hooter to snatch a 25-23 victory over North Harbour and retain the Ranfurly Shield in Invercargill on Saturday.

Scott Cowan scored with the last play of the game to level the scores before James Wilson's simple conversion secured the Stags' fourth win of the season.

North Harbour looked set to grab hold of the Log o' Wood for just the second time in the province's history as they put in one if their best performances of the season.

The visitors took a 20-7 half-time lead only to see Southland fight back, using the wind to their advantage in the soggy conditions.

Harbour were well worth their half-time lead despite conceding an early try when Southland wing Tom Cornforth touched down inside the opening two minutes at the end of a sweeping move.

Full-back Willie Walker was at the origin of Harbour's reply, setting up a try for James Parsons in the fifth minute.

North Harbour opted to largely keep the ball in hand and punished Southland's sloppy line-outs and poor defence as left wing David Raikuna scored from 70m out.

Ben Botica was accurate in his goalkicking all afternoon, landing five from five including an angled 50m penalty, and it was his boot that gave the visitors a healthy lead.

Cowan sparked the hosts' comeback soon after the restart when he wrestled his way over the line from close range.

Wilson landed two penalties to bring Southland with range. With Harbour winding down the clock, the Stags launched one final attack. A series of tapped penalties near the North Harbour line ended with replacement hooker Jason Rutledge diving towards the padding around the base of the goalpost.

Rutledge came up centimetres short but Cowan was on hand to force the ball, leaving referee Chris Pollock to award the try, Cowan's second for the game.

The scorers

For Southland:
Tries:Cornforth, Cowan 2
Cons: Wilson 2
Pens: Wilson 2

For North Harbour:
Tries: Parsons, Finau
Cons: Botica 2
Pens: Botica 3

Southland: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Kade Poki,13 Kendrick Lynn,12 Matt Saunders, 11 Tim Cornforth,10 James Wilson,9 Scott Cowan,8 Elliot Dixon/Tom Chamberlain,7 Tim Boys,6 John Hardie,5 Ben Nally,4 Josh Bekhuis,3 Nick Barrett,2 David Hall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c),
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Chris King, 18 Michael Fatialofa, 19 Chamberlain/Dixon, 20 Sonny Rangitohereri, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 Glen Horton, 23 Michael Peterson.

North Harbour: 15 Willie Walker, 14 Nafi Tuitavake,13 Rudi Wulf,12 Brendon Watt,11 David Raikuna, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Chris Smylie (c), 8 Mat Luamanu,7 Solomon King,6 Brent Wilson,5 Filo Paulo,4 Irwin Finau,3 Ben Afeaki,2 James Parsons, 1 James Afoa.
Replacments: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Alex Woonton, 18 Michael Farmer, 19 Sam Hayes-Stevenson, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Pita Ahki, 22 Ken Pisi, 23 Taione Vea.