Stags unlucky with close loss in extra time

Southland Stags player Matt Whaanga looks for a gap in defence during the round five Bunnings NPC match against Canterbury at Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill, on Saturday. Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images

THE Southland Stags go into this Sunday’s round five National Provincial Championship game desperate for their first win of the season.

This assignment against Tasman in Blenheim will be difficult; the Makos have won the past two Mitre 10 Premiership finals.

The Stags had a 19-16 golden point loss to Canterbury in Invercargill on Saturday.

The Stags were unlucky last minute with the score 16-all, Marty Banks had the chance to give Southland its first home win against Canterbury in 18 years, and its first win since 2014. Unfortunately, Banks pushed his shot at goal wide.

Five minutes into golden point extra-time, Canterbury’s Fergus Burke landed the winning penalty goal.

Fullback Josh Moorby scored the opening try of the game. The ensuing conversion gave Southland a 7-3 lead after 15 minutes.

Canterbury landed three penalty goals in the first 22 minutes, then started turning down shots at goal and kicking to touch.

Despite some good lineout throwing from former Star hooker Sam Stewart, Canterbury’s over-confidence was exposed by the Stags’ excellent work on defence and at the breakdown.

The Stags relished the wet conditions and took a 10-9 lead into the break.

After Stags prop Chris Apoua was yellow carded for a late shoulder charge, Canterbury looked like it would take control and lock Luke Romano crashed over in the 54th minute, giving his side a 16-10 lead.

That was the only try of the half as the scoring fell to the kickers. Banks made two of his four attempted penalties in the final half hour of the game, with a crucial late miss forcing extra time.

Golden point sees teams, which are locked up at the end of normal time, play in extra time until the first team to score wins.

The Stags showed a superb attitude in their first game back from a six-week break and had opportunities to take the win but some basic errors proved costly.

It was an impressive defensive effort against a team with 19 Super Rugby players.

Flanker Matt James and fullback Moorby were two of Southland’s best.

The winner of this Sunday’s game will be the inaugural holder of the Clarke Dermody Cup.

Dermody is a legendary Stags front rower and was the Tasman assistant coach in 2019/2020.

Southland B had a 19-10 win over Otago B at Les George Oval, Otatara, on Saturday.