Play-off hopes rest on home game
Southland's championship play-off hopes will rest on a home game against Manawatu on Friday after this afternoon's 47-18 loss to Taranaki at Rugby Park.
The Stags will need to beat the Turbos and hope results go their way after letting a nine- point halftime lead slip away in a handful of frustrating minutes after the break before capitulating over the final 20 minutes.
The amber-and-blacks turned around a bumbling first 40 minutes to score five tries and book a place in the premiership semifinals.
Taranaki were guilty of a litany of errors in the first half.
Forward passes, poor ball security at the ruck and some sloppy all-round play was contrasted by some strong running by midfielder Isaia Tuifua and an outstanding scrum which had Southland under real pressure through the first quarter of the game.
Southland opened the scoring with Scott Eade landing his second penalty attempt with the wind behind him.
Taranaki's aggressive work at the scrum earned Frazier Climo a penalty attempt after 20 minutes which he banged over to level the scores.
Soon after some strong hunting by the Stags pack saw Tim Boys fly through onto the loose ball for the turnover.
After it had swung towards the grandstand touch, the ball went wide to Tim Cornforth who broke through the ineffectual tackles of Timo Tutavaha and Jason Eaton before offloading to Matt Saunders for the try.
Climo pulled three points back with his second penalty before Southland camped themselves in the Taranaki 22m.
Turning down a kickable penalty in favour of a Saunders quick tap, the positivity looked like it would go unrewarded before a strong drive from a 5m lineout allowed Tayler Adams to dart down the blindside and the 18-year-old showed good presence of mind to reach out for the try.
A 15-6 lead heading into the wind was as much as Southland could have hoped for, but five minutes into the second half and they had virtually handed Taranaki 10 points, first through a penalty and then a try to Climo after Alex Ryan fired a horror ball off the ground after fielding a high kick.
Southland went close to a third try with Elliot Dixon held up over the line in a good tackle by Eaton, but an improved scrum effort saw the Stags earn a turnover which almost lead to their third try.
Eade's second penalty had Southland ahead 18-16 but with 20 minutes to go the Stags coughed up another soft try with Jayden Hayward finding a big gap from a lineout and running 50m to score.
Another simple try, with Climo breaking through and feeding James Marshall, put the game beyond doubt and Marshall's second try with four minutes to go secured a bonus point.
Climo had a field day for Taranaki, scoring 27 points in total.
Eaton made his 50th appearance for Taranaki, while Mark Wells did the same for Southland, while Keanu Kahukura made his debut off the bench for the Stags late in the game.
Taranaki 47 (Frazier Climo, Jayden Hayward, James Marshall 2, Jackson Ormond tries; Climo 4 pen, 5 con)
Southland 18 (Matt Saunders, Tayler Adams tries; Scott Eade 2 pen, con)
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