Taranaki bursts Southland's bubble

Southland centre Isaac Te Tamaki prepares to step past his Taranaki opposite, Tei Waldon during...
Southland centre Isaac Te Tamaki prepares to step past his Taranaki opposite, Tei Waldon during their Mitre 10 clash in New Plymouth last night. Photo: Getty Images
There are no points awarded for outstanding defence.

Southland would have sealed the win by halftime if that was the case.

But Taranaki eventually broke the 0-0 stalemate with three second half-tries to win 19-0 in New Plymouth last night.

The home team had enough ball to win two or three games of rugby in the first 40 minutes.

But the Stags have had plenty of opportunity to practise their tenacity on defence during the past three years. The side had strung together 27 consecutive losses before snapping the drought against Counties Manukau on Saturday.

That kind of adversity builds resolve. But Taranaki chipped in as well.

It got into good attacking positions regularly but its wobbly lineout or dodgy scrum allowed Southland to release the pressure valve.

The Stags had the first real opportunity to score. Winger Rory van Vugt attacked a kick and took it brilliantly on the bounce. He ran through a gap but flicked off a pass which missed the target. Had it connected, the Stags may well have giving the scorers something to do.

Taranaki openside Tom Florence got so close to scoring in the 28th minute. He lunged at the line and only a wonderful tackle from Southland lock Mike McKee prevented him scoring.

McKee got his arm around and knocked the ball free. The scorers were able to exhale and sit back down again. Phew.

Thankfully, the scoreless period came to an end early in the second period. Taranaki fired off a couple of skip passes from a scrum on halfway. Waisake Naholo got the ball to fullback Jayson Potroz, who tossed it back inside to centre Sean Wainui who in turn found Tei Walden to score. It was worth the wait.

Rain did not help with handling but Naholo almost slipped in for the game's second try. Marty McKenzie got back and across and nailed the former All Black just short of the corner.

It was left winger Jackson Ormond who scored instead. First five-eighth Stephen Perofeta pounced on the loose ball at the back of a lineout and offloaded to Ormond, who scored from close range.

It was a tad unlucky for Southland and more misfortune was around the corner. Naholo caught a forward pass and scored in the corner with five minutes remaining. Wayne Barnes would have been proud.

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