THE Southland Stags are desperate to beat fellow championship team Manawatu at Rugby Park in Invercargill this Sunday.
The Stags have lost their first four games of the competition; their first three games had plenty of merit but, on Sunday, Southland was thrashed by Tasman 51-14.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Blenheim, the Stags were in disarray at scrum and lineout time, and their defence was exposed as Tasman raced to a 19-0 lead after just 12 minutes.
The Stags got on the board when first-five Marty Banks latched on to an intercept and ran 55m to score, which also brought up 1000 points for him in New Zealand first-class rugby, in what as his 101st game.
Southland’s defence lacked intensity and couldn’t handle Tasman’s pace and power as the defending NPC Premiership champions cruised to an almost unassailable 39-7 lead at half-time.
Southland players turned with the wind at their backs and, after some harsh words from their coaches, showed their customary grit in the second half.
Solomon Alaimalo scored a converted try for the Stags after 43 minutes, but they spent the majority of the half camped in their own 22m defending.
Tight-head prop Chris Apoua and flanker Matt James were two of the Stags’ best in that second half effort, as were the likes of Charles Aliamalo, Marty McKenzie, and Tevita Latu, who came off the bench.
Mitch Hunt converted five of Tasman’s seven tries as the team became the inaugural Clarke Dermody Cup winner.