A lot to like as Stags crush Cantabrians
The Stags will name their 2012 NPC squad today after a confidence-boosting 38-0 win over a shadow Canterbury team in Oamaru yesterday.
While the Cantabrians had only a passing resemblance to the team Canterbury will probably use during the competition proper, there was plenty to like about yesterday's performance and feel optimistic that Southland will be contenders to play their way out of the second-tier championship this year.
With several Highlanders players resting on the bench, the squad's youngsters got a chance to show their wares.
Scott Eade looked composed at first five-eighth, while Marty McKenzie helped add direction from fullback, where he provided safe hands and another quality kicking option.
Tim Cornforth was dangerous on attack, although prone to falling off tacklers, while Mark Wells showed nice touches on the other wing, including grabbing the game's first try.
Stags coach David Henderson would have preferred a firmer surface to the one that Oamaru provided after two weeks of consistent rain but despite that a crowd of about 200 was still treated to six tries, including a 70m scorcher from replacement wing Junior Ngaluafe.
"To me the score didn't really matter. It was a matter of getting into some of the things we've been working on, our wide plays and what we are trying to do in the contact area. It's a pity for both teams the ground was a bit soft but I'm reasonably happy with (the game)," Henderson said.
Lock Alex Ryan continued his comeback, after a 2011 blighted by injury, with a pleasing display for Southland.
Agile in the lineouts and prominent around the field, Ryan appears to be coming on nicely.
"We just wanted to work on our systems and get things flowing, which I think we did," Ryan said.
"I managed to get a few club games this year and a few 80 minutes. Last year was frustrating for me but, hopefully, this year will be a change."
Henderson said it was good to have Ryan on board.
"He's a guy who only played one game last year and we missed him. He's back this year but there' s a lot of guys today who will be pretty pleased with how things went."
The new rules being trialled during the NPC did not have a major bearing on the game. Both teams struggled in the first half with early scrum engagements, because of a shorter call, but improved as the game progressed.
A time limit on how long teams could hold the ball at the back of the ruck was not a major issue, Stags halfback Scott Cowan said.
"When we were on defence it felt like they had the ball there for well over five seconds but Vinny (referee Vinny Munro)informed me it has to be at the back of the ruck. It's hard to get a gauge of whether it's at the last man's feet or not. You have to choose your time of when you are going to go for the ball. Reading it on paper it sounds like a massive rule change but it didn't feel like a big change out there."
Henderson is unlikely to make changes from the wider training squad named last week when he announces his lineup today.
The Stags play a first-class pre-season game against Otago in Balclutha next Friday and start their NPC season against Counties on August 26.
Southland 38 (Mark Wells, Hoani Macdonald, Jimmy Cowan, Micheal Peterson, Junior Ngaluafe, AstonTalaia tries; Marty McKenzie 4 con)
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