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Southland B beat theOtago Country Premiers 26-18 in a physical encounter at Heriot on Saturday.
Otago Country started well and piled pressure on early.
As Southland began to warm up, it took control of the first half, threatening to run away with proceedings. Its possession retention was good and its impressive backline was given plenty of front-foot ball. Southland had the advantage at ruck time until lock Craig Smith was sent to the sin-bin for excessive rucking. Country came back into the game towards the end of the first half, and the game was in the balance at halftime.
Just as it was last week, Otago Country was the better sidein the second half.
It treasured possession and mounted attack after attack. Southland B defended stoutly, and cleared its lines well. Otago Country muscled up and started to win the collision areas. It got stuck in at ruck time, and looked after the ball much better than it did in the first half. Southland B knew it was in a battle. It took the points on offer, managing to stay ahead of the home side until the end.
There were plenty of stand-outs for the Otago Country side. Blindside flanker Josh Brown once again showed his class.
He brought the game to Southland B and never took a back step either on defence or with ball in hand.
Lock Malcolm Sutherland also muscled up in the tight. Midfielder Angus Gibb again showed off his strong running game. He made plenty of metres and consistently broke the advantage line.
Fullback Kane Teunissen was busy and had a solid game in his first start for Otago Country.
Southland B flanker Presley Tufuga was immense for his side. He got through a mountain of work and made a huge difference. Winger Lisala Halaleva was very dangerous with ball in hand. He scored a double and caused endless troubles for the Country side.
Although Country has not taken any wins from its last two games against "B" sides, it has upped its game and has a strong chance of wresting the Tri-Series Trophy off Canterbury Country when the two sides meet in Christchurch in two weeks.
- Francis Parker
Otago Country v Southland B
Southland B 26
Brandon Rogers, Jaya More, Hayden Edgley, Lisala Halaleva tries; Toka Sopoaga 2, Mitchell Taylor conversions
Otago Country 18
Tim O’Neill, James Downes tries; Ben Maxwell 1 con, 2 pen