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In Wellington last night a team made up of many of New Zealand’s more exciting attacking talents took on a team full of mainly good club rugby players. And during the first 40 minutes, it showed.
Wellington ran in six first-half tries to lead Southland 40-nil at halftime in the round three Mitre 10 Cup fixture, which the home side ended up winning 52-7.
The first half onslaught started in the fifth minute when Wellington first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop nudged a kick behind the Stags defence for Thomas Umaga-Jensen to dive on and score.
It ended on the stroke of halftime with wing Ben Lam’s second of three tries during the game.
At 40-0 at the break, the potential end result looked scary as the Southland faithful tried to predict where it might end up.
Southland was required to defend for the majority of the first half, squeezing plenty of energy out of the boys in maroon.
The Stags were, however, able to limit the second-half damage as they hung in the fight, while Wellington’s attack turned into a bit of a mess.
Wellington was restricted to just two second half tries to Southland’s one by replacement loose forward Bill Fukofuka.
Captain James Wilson was not in any mood, however, to talk up the Stags’ second half showing after the game.
He suggested his team was not up for the challenge in Wellington last night.
"I’m pretty disappointed, to be fair. We really wanted to come here and basically have a performance we are proud of, and today we didn’t do that. Overall, it’s pretty gutting," Wilson said.
"I think attitude plays a big part in defence, and we just weren’t up for the challenge."
While it was hard for Wilson to extract any positives from a 52-7 loss, there were some for Southland.
Flanker Wade McRae’s work-rate was sublime and his mate Phil Halder, on the other side of the scrum, continues to prove his worth at Mitre 10 Cup level.
Young hooker Flynn Thomas again battled away in tough circumstances. Replacement midfielder Ray Nu’u showed some nice work in his debut game for the Stags when he was introduced in the second half.
Ultimately, however, Southland does not have enough strike power to compete with teams like Wellington.
Wellington, on the other hand, was able to unleash the likes of All Blacks TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea on the game.
Perenara and Savea got through 63 minutes each, and Perenara was particularly damaging when he ran on attack. Southland’s eyes turn to Counties in Invercargill on Saturday and there might be some patching up to do with the injury list already growing.
Prop Morgan Mitchell missed the Wellington game because of injury, while fellow props Joe Walsh and Shaun Stodart both left the field injured in the second half against Wellington last night.
- Logan Savory
Mitre 10 Cup
Ben Lam 3, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Asafo Aumua, Tolu Fahamokioa, James Blackwell, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 5 con, TJ Va’a con
Bill Fukofuka try; James Wilson con