Stags impress with strong defence

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Rugby fans (from left) Blair Shco, Mitch Ottley, Ethan Moore and Connor Te-Kooro watch the Southland Stags take on North Harbour at Rugby Park in Invercargill last Saturday. Photo: Luisa Girao

THE Southland Stags will bring some confidence into their Mitre 10 Cup game against Waikato in Invercargill this weekend.

The Stags had an 11-10 win over North Harbour at Rugby Park last Saturday.

Stags captain Tony Lamborn was an absolute beast in an inspirational effort, whether it was on the carry from No 8, at the breakdown, or on defence.

Midfielder Ray Nu’u was explosive and tough when carting the ball over the advantage line, while fullback Josh Moorby was another above average performer.

Replacement front rowers Jason Rutledge and Chris Apoua made some big plays at the business end of the game.

The Stags have now been involved in three gritty encounters, winning two of them and pushing Bay of Plenty to the wire.

However, nobody in the Stags camp was getting carried away with the positive start to the season. Saturday’s game against Harbour was an ugly game, full of turnovers, penalties, handling errors, poor discipline and option-taking from both sides.

Despite those negatives, the Stags’ defence was again full of merit, and their attitude and commitment to defence earned supporters’ respect.

After 18 minutes Harbour’s best player, flanker Tim Sail, crashed over for a try, which was converted. Harbour had a man sent to the sin bin after 35 minutes.

Southland had dominated territory and possession in the first half but due to errors, some poor options and good defence from Harbour, it went scoreless.

After 54 minutes, Harbour lost another man to the sin bin and Stags wing Rory van Vugt scored a try soon after. It looked like there was a possible knock-on before the try but the television match official agreed with the on-field call.

Scott Eade’s penalty goal put the Stags in front 8-7 with 14 minutes to play but after 75 minutes, Harbour’s penalty goal put it ahead.

Harbour tried to shut the game down and did well to hold the ball for 15 phases but, in the final minute, Lamborn pinched a turnover and the Stags set themselves up for the winner.

Harbour tried to steal the ball at the ruck and was penalised. Replacement Greg Dyer calmly kicked the winning goal from 30m out and 15m in from the right touchline.

Southland will be aiming to show more patience on attack against Waikato when they kick off at 2.05pm, at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Sunday.

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