Otago 32 - 38 Southland, ITM Cup
Stags regain Donald Stuart Memorial Shield
September 28, 2013
Elliot Dixon scored a key try in the second half
© Getty Images
Southland scored two late tries, one a fine solo effort from replacement fly-half Scott Eade, to beat Otago and regain the Donald Stuart Memorial Shield in a thrilling ITM Cup match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.
The rivals have produced some stunning contests over the years, but few have produced the stunning back play unleashed in this contest. Eade's try got Southland within a point - 32-31 - with 12 minutes to play, and replacement halfback Taylor Adams touched down four minutes later to complete a sweeping length-of-the-field try that summed up the progress Southland's backs have made in the latter part of the season.
Otago made an early statement when Buxton Popoali'i found space on the blindside to take the attack to the line, but Southland scrambled well, and only a penalty goal, landed by Otago's Hayden Parker, was conceded.
Marty McKenzie replied six minutes later before the hosts regained the lead when Popoali'i used his speed to startling effect to take advantage of an unguarded flank another six minutes later.
Southland, through in-form centre Willis Halaholo, charged back into the game. The Stags ran the ball from their own 22 in the 20th minute: Robbie Robinson linking with centre Cardiff Vaega, who raced over halfway and slipped a kick ahead that Halaholo raced onto to collect the ball and score. Southland went close in the 25th minute, when Robinson, standing at fly-half, slipped a kick behind the home defence; Otago lock Tom Franklin stepped in front of McKenzie, obstructing him, and the television match official considered awarding a penalty try before deciding on a penalty goal that Eade kicked to give the Stags an 11-10 lead.
Buxton Popoali'i scored two try in a fine personal performance © Getty Images
Robinson then made a dreadful mistake to gift a try to the Razorbacks just before half-time, the fullback failing to clear Parker with a chip kick on the Stags' 22; the fly-half pull the ball down and raced in for an easy try.
Southland struck almost from the start of the second half, when Elliot Dixon detached from a midfield scrum and fed Eade, who had moved back to fly-half after McKenzie left the field after being obstructed. Eade took a gap and raced into the Otago 22 to find Vaega in support to score the try. The Stags celebrated again just moments later, but the TMO denied the try to Dixon after ruling a pass from Robinson to wing Tim Cornforth had drifted forward.
Southland regained the lead when Eade landed a 51-metre penalty goal, but Otago rebounded immediately after forcing a turnover from which Keiran Moffat scored a converted try to claim a 27-21 lead.
Southland maintained their positive intent, kicking a penalty to the corner for an attacking lineout rather than shooting for goal, and they gained their reward when they took a tap penalty and moved the ball across the goalmouth after two five-metre scrums, and Dixon placed a long arm over the line to score.
Otago rebounded again through Popoal'i, who scored in the corner 16 minutes from full-time to cap a sweet move after sustained pressure, but Eade broke into space and rounded a defender to score unopposed before the Stags, entirely in keeping with the nature of the game, produced a sweet backline attack that saw Adams cross for a converted try to claim victory.
Southland hooker David Hall provided plenty of go-forward © Getty Images