Stags show early dedication

OTAGO ran in eight tries in a dominant display, beating Southland 50-5 in an NPC pre-season rugby match in Invercargill on Friday.

Otago did its damage either side of halftime, notably clocking up four tries in a15-minute period early in the second half.

Two of those came from lineout drives, while the others were from breaks down the left wing — finished off by young duo Oliver Haig and Jeremiah Asi.

That period took the score to 36-0, and the game was effectively over at that point.

It was not all Otago dominance until then, although it showed its fortitude under pressure.

The Stags had the better of the first 20 minutes, playing much of the game in Otago’s 22 and forcing the visitors to defend stoutly.

It built phases and drew several penalties from the Otago defence

— which may have translated to shots at goal in real games.

Otago struggled to get much going early, before working its way into the game after 20 minutes.

At that point centre Josh Timu began creating opportunities, while winger Vilimoni Koroi increasingly became a threat and a handful of dynamic runs from new No 8 Rupeni Tamani provided goforward.

Timu created the first try, making a break to put Koroi into space.

Stags winger Rory van Vugt did well to drag him down, but Timu picked up from the base and passed off for Sam Gilbert to barrel over in the corner.

The second try came just before halftime, after Koroi looked to have kicked the ball away after a good build-up in the Southland 22.

However, the ball spilled free as Southland looked to exit and Thomas Umaga-Jensen picked it up to score, making it 12-0 at halftime.

From there Otago asserted dominance. Its attack began to click more — new halfback Kemara Hauiti Parapara showing a handy pass, while first five Cameron Millar, best known for his kicking, had several nice flashes running the ball.

Haig touched down three minutes into the second half, combining with Asi and a fortunate kick to score in the left corner.

Henry Bell and Josh Hohneck both crashed over on the back of lineout drives not long after — young lock Fabian Holland proving a reliable target in the middle of the Otago lineout.

Asi ran in one of his own not long after, before flanker Leroy Ferguson hit a nice ball to take the score past 40.

Southland hit back through Josh Bekhuis late in the game, although not before Otago defended its line well for an extended period.

The visitors managed one more, though, as Finn Hurley was put in by Gilbert and the latter slotted the extras to make it 50.

The Southland Stags kick off their NPC campaign against Tasman on Sunday, August 7.