SOUTHLAND needs to beat Otago in Invercargill on Friday night and then Counties Manukau the following week to give them any chance of making the semi-finals of the Mitre 10 Cup Championship.
The Stags will also require either Taranaki or Northland to lose both of their games.
After a strong start to the season, Southland has staggered through the middle stages and then put in its worst performance in the round eight loss to Manawatu last Sunday.
Manawatu’s 24-12 win in Feilding was its first win of the 2020 season.
The Turbos’ main ground in Palmerston North was unavailable on Sunday so Feilding got to host its first first-class match in 37 years.
The excited local fans had to put up with a very strong wind in the temporary grandstand, constructed from scaffolding
Through injury and the rotation policy, the Stags had made nine changes to their starting line-up.
Captain Tony Lamborn shifted from openside flanker to No 8, with Matthew James starting at openside.
Matthew McKenzie (Woodlands) debuted at fullback, while Joe Robins (Midlands), Nathan Va’atausili (Woodlands), Brad Armstrong (Star) and Brad Kooman (Blues) made their debuts from the bench.
In the windy conditions first five-eighth Scott Eade missed a reasonably simple shot at goal after 11 minutes.
The locals opened the scoring with a converted try after 17 minutes.
Five minutes later Southland drew level when halfback Logan Crowley got the ball off the top of the lineout and shot down the blind side, brushed off a defender and cut inside to score a good try under the posts.
Manawatu scored two tries in the 10 minutes before half-time to lead 17-7.
The Turbos dominated possession and territory, while Southland made too many mistakes.
Southland had more of the ball in the second half and made it 17-12 after 55 minutes, when the Stags set up a drive from a lineout and rolled over the line for hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate to score.
Unfortunately, the Stags missed another try-scoring opportunity soon after.
With five minutes remaining, the game’s best performer watu first five-eighth Ben Wyness ball from an unsuspecting Stags ball runner and raced away to score a try, which was converted.
Trailing 24-12, the Stags tried to at least earn a bonus point try but, as has been the case for most of the season, the ball handling let the side down.
Openside Matt James and hooker Pleasants-Tate were probably Southland’s best.