Rams beaten but unbowed
The Southland Rams came up short on Saturday but the feeling is competition heavyweights Canterbury are certainly not out of reach in 2013.
The Road Safety Southland-sponsored Rams travelled to Christchurch to take on a Canterbury side who in their first two games crushed both Otago and Tasman by 40-plus margins.
The last time Southland made the trip to Christchurch to play Canterbury they were delivered an 80-point hiding which highlighted the enormity of the challenge on Saturday.
Southland were searching for their first win over Canterbury and while that didn't materialise, they showed more than enough in the 34-16 loss to suggest if they get a second shot at the Cantabs in the South Island provincial final a win isn't out of reach.
Southland opened the scoring on Saturday through Stacey Mikara to lead 4-0.
Captain and standoff Javaan Fa'amoe-Ioane launched a 40/20 kick and from that scrum Mikara scored out wide which was his first of two tries.
However, the first half turned a little sour for the visitors with defensive lapses allowing Canterbury to go to the break 22-10 up.
That effectively put paid to Southland's attempt to topple the competition favourites but to the Rams' credit they didn't let the scoreline blow out, losing the second half just 12-6.
Coach Greg Dawson was generally pleased with what his team produced, but added that if they were to get another shot at Canterbury in the final and beat them they would need to cut out any lapses throughout the 80 minutes.
"We scored some nice tries out wide but we also bombed a couple late in the first half as well. The option taking was good but a couple of times the execution wasn't there," Dawson said.
"Obviously we're disappointed we didn't get the result but there were some positives to take out of it. [Canterbury] are beatable."
Fullback Lucas Pikia was one of Southland's standouts, Chee Turuwhenua and Chez Cameron never took a backward step, Javaan Fa'amoe-Ioane ran proceedings well at standoff and Jeremy Borland got the Rams on the front foot.
Southland now travel to Nelson this Saturday to take on Tasman as they look to lock in a finals berth against Canterbury.
Tasman lost to Otago 22-20 in Dunedin on Saturday which means if Southland beats Tasman in Nelson they will go through.
If the lose they are still a chance, given both teams will be locked on points and it will come down to points differential.
- © Fairfax NZ News