Northland beat Southland in poor game
An intercept try to Northland first five-eighth Ben Seymour 17 minutes into the game proved to be the difference in their 13-9 NPC win over Southland in Whangarei this evening.
If you were to describe this game as being stop start and messy you would probably would be kind as Southland dominated possession and territory and fired more shots than the home team but failed to land the killer shot.
The handling errors flowed like a water rapid and young referee Brendon Pickerill probably didn't play his part in helping the game get going as he stamped his mark on anything he could.
Southland first five-eighth Scott Eade opened the scoring with a 42m penalty after just a minute when Northland were penalised for a ruck infringement.
In the next 10 minutes Eade and Seymour both missed shots at goal before Seymour delivered what turned out to be the crucial play of the game.
Southland had a scrum inside Northland's half where No 8 Hale T-Pole looked to get his team going forward.
The ball was recycled to flanker John Hardie at first receiver who shovelled it on, however, Seymour read the play well swooping on the Hardie pass to scoot in and score.
A decade on from last thrilling New Zealand rugby crowds, Northland wing Rupeni Caucaunibuca turned back the clock late in the first half when he got on the outside of the Southland defence and looked to have setup fullback Whirua Meltzer in his return to provincial rugby.
However, the heavily involved TMO tonight was called on and he ruled the pass from Caucaunibuca to Meltzer was forward.
Northland went into the halftime break with a 10-6 lead which they probably would have been comfortable with given they were lagging in every statistic other than the scoreboard.
They had just 31 per cent possession and 42 per cent territory and had to make 55 first half tackles to Southland's 24.
The second half played out much the same with Southland hogging the ball and territory and often bent the Northland defensive line but those surges led to nothing as far as points were concerned.
Just a penalty each was it in the second half as Northland tried their very best to lose the game with time running out but the Stags failed to pounce.
As far as a spectacle goes, it was not a great advertisement for the game of rugby and just maybe when both teams review the tape they might end up more confused with what they were doing.
For Southland, youngsters Cardiff Vaega and Michael Fatialofa were good while for Northland Meltzer was their best attacking threat and loose forward Dan Pryor was heavily involved.
The Southland Times