Eade a standout in Southland's victory
Scott Eade has played in front of bigger, but not louder, crowds than the 6200 at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
The former New Zealand under-20 player has arguably been involved in bigger occasions, but he was struggling to remember a better performance after the 38-32 win over Otago.
Southland reclaimed the Donald Stuart Memorial Trophy for the first time since 2011, they scored their third win in a row and captain Jamie Mackintosh was able to celebrate his 100th game for the union in style, but it was the standout showing of Eade which was the biggest talking point under the roof in Dunedin.
Eade, who turns 21 next month, was impressive enough in the first half at halfback for Southland, before switching to first-five and taking over the kicking duties when Marty McKenzie limped off with an ankle injury.
McKenzie had earlier been taken out by an Otago defender and gamely carried on, but was obviously affected by the knock.
Moving one place out, Eade attacked from a scrum 40m out, running through a gaping hole and sending Cardiff Vaega in for a try which helped bring Southland back into the game at 20-18 after they had trailed 20-11 at halftime.
Four minutes later he landed a penalty from his own side of halfway as Southland temporarily took the lead and he again put the Stags ahead with a piece of stunning individual play when he ran through another hole and beat the defence for the Stags' fourth try.
"There's something about this place, I've played here three times now and I've had linebreaks in all of them," Eade said.
"I think it's the confidence I have, a dry ball and the roof, the pace of the game." Eade's game-turning 51m penalty was a surprise to just about everyone except the man himself.
"I haven't really had a crack, to be honest. I asked Whoppa against Bay of Plenty and he turned me down so as soon as the penalty was given I was straight up to him." In fact, Eade had attempted a kick from a similar distance at the captain's run on Friday.
He dropped it short but knew that, if he didn't try and overkick the ball, he had the distance.
The noise generated by a vocal maroon crowd - at times it sounded like a Southland home game - had helped get the Stags home, Eade said.
"We knew there were going to be a lot of Stags fans, but to have that much support for us was outstanding. I think it really picked the boys up in the last few minutes when we were defending our line."
Mackintosh has big raps on the young Stags utility.
"Mate, I've got nothing but praise for him. He's got a great head on his shoulders, he's an awesome kid," Mackintosh said.
"He's a really special guy in our environment, he's only 20 and yet he is one of the guys who is going to be around Southland rugby a long time and I hope he plays Super Rugby at some stage.
"His dedication to the game plan and our planning during the week was instrumental, he really takes a big hand in running the team and for me as a skip I can worry about my job and the forward pack.
"I've got absolute confidence turning around and seeing Scotty there running the show."
Stags coach David Henderson also praised Eade after the game.
"Outstanding. He's gone into halfback and done well there and then into first-five and done well there too.
- The Southland Times