Stronger Stags still winless

Territory, tick. Possession, tick. Attitude, tick. Scoreboard, oh well.

Southland was plucky but Hawke's Bay stumbled through to a 41-23 victory in Napier last night.

The home side is unbeaten this season and leads the Championship standings.

Southland, well, its long losing streak in the tournament is now 26 games.

The Stags' soul-searching certainly brought about a stronger effort.

Coach Dave Hewett was not sure why the "mental attitude" was not right last week but he was pleased with his side's approach.

"We were more accurate and our intensity was better. We still made mistakes, though."

Hewett felt his side was "hard done by at the breakdown" and Hawke's Bay took every opportunity to plug the corner and launch a lineout drive. It scored three tries that way.

Southland had an early try ruled out when Greg Pleasants-Tate took out Gareth Evans off the ball. Flanker Matthew James bustled through for a charge-down and winger Lausii Taliauli had seemingly scored in the corner.

Referee Rebecca Mahoney, the first woman to control a Mitre 10 Cup match, got her first big decision spot on.

The Stags dominated the opening 10 minutes but again they turned a promising attack into a try at the other end as Hawke's Bay swept 90m to score.

Marty McKenzie drilled back-to-back penalties to give the southerners a short-lived lead.

Hooker Ash Dixon was responsible for the next lead change. He drove over from a 5m lineout, his fifth try of the season.

No6 came on the stroke of halftime. Southland found itself defending another 5m lineout. Dixon got himself at the back of the drive again.

Southland had had the better of territory and possession but trailed 17-6 with 40 minutes remaining.

That gap suddenly got more manageable thanks to a skilful chip ahead from McKenzie.

Winger Lewis Ormond saved the ball from going out by whipping it infield to Isaac Te Tamaki, who scored.

The Bay restored the margin through a try to midfielder Danny Toala.

Southland prop Morgan Mitchell got a yellow card with 15 minutes left and that essentially marked the end of the challenge.

Heartland Championship

The scores

Hawke’s Bay  41
Ash Dixon 2, Gareth Evans, Danny Toala,
Brendon O’Connor, Lincoln McClutchie,
Jason Long tries; Toala 2 con, McClutchie con
Southland  23
Isaac Te Tamaki 2, Josh Moorby tries;
Marty McKenzie con, 2 pen
Halftime: 17-6

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