Rams coach rues what might have been
Southland Rams coach Warrick Anderson cut a frustrated look after his team's tense 32-30 loss to the Tasman Titans in the South Island Provincial League Competition game in Invercargill on Saturday.
Frustrated his team had just a 50 per cent completion rate with the ball and still should have won, frustrated with a key referee's decision, frustrated his team had come so far this season but failed to tick one particular box that would have turned 2012 into somewhat of a fairytale.
The key word was frustration.
Anderson found it hard to even bring himself to talk about it when he reflected soon after the loss.
"We should have beaten them, as simple as that mate," he said.
"We made too many mistakes, basic mistakes."
The Rams were guilty of handing Tasman momentum in the first half through those mistakes Anderson was talking about.
Missing touch from line kicks and losing the ball too often in greasy conditions at the Elles Rd grounds.
Southland started in exciting fashion when they open the scoring inside the first five minutes through fullback Javaan Faa'moe-Ioane but Tasman quickly responded and eventually went into the halftime break with a 24-16 lead.
But the Rams' defence lifted to have Tasman camped deep in their own half and the home side put themselves in a position to score plenty of points.
One thing that couldn't be questioned was the Rams' eagerness and endeavour to do the job on Saturday but it was the accuracy that let them down at key times.
They did manage to capitalise in a short period of time in the second half when centre Cheyenne Hiko dotted down for two tries to go with his first-half try, making it a hat-trick for him for the day.
Trailing 32-26 with time running out, Southland crossed through lock forward Omeka Raimona to make it 32-30.
Jayleel Faa'moe-Ioane missed the conversion attempt that would have locked it up, but there was still time for the Rams to work themselves into position to score again.
Unfortunately, they turned the ball over with another error and it was a victory for Tasman.
It was the one that got away for Southland.
One of those opportunities that went begging had Anderson in deep discussions with the officials following the game after Jayleel Faa'moe-Ioane scooted away during the second half for a runaway try only for the referee to overrule a touch judge decision and bring the play back for a knock-on.
"You can't do anything about it, but the try we scored under the posts, the ref played on, he runs down here (then) goes back, asks the touchy, the touchy says ‘no play on', but he still goes back and calls it a knock-on. If it was a knock on he should have stopped the play then and there. It's poor refereeing," Anderson said.
Anderson was pleased with several of his players' performance despite the loss.
"Zane (Hiko) and Ome (Raimona) were outstanding mate, they really stood out today," he said. "Chee (Turuwhenua) in the second row, Shaun (Tamariki-Todd) at prop, those four were awesome."
A win on Saturday against Tasman would have effectively booked them a place in the 2012 South Island final.
Instead, they now have the difficult assignment of trying to beat hot favourites Canterbury in Invercargill on Saturday to give themselves any chance of progressing to the final two.
Whether they win against Canterbury or not this group will be desperate to finish the season well.
They've come too far to finish on a poor note and in the back of their minds will be the 92-6 thrashing Canterbury dished up last year.
In the other South Island competition game played on Saturday, Canterbury, as expected, had a comfortable win, 68-12, over the West Coast Chargers in Christchurch after they led 36-12 at halftime.
The Otago Whalers had the bye.
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