Southland goes down to Counties
Southland's 2013 season hinges on Sunday's Tasman-Manawatu result after they come up short in tonight's Ranfurly Shield game against Counties in Pukekohe.
The Stags headed to the South Auckland town with the prospect of winning the prized shield and booking a place in the Championship division semi-finals.
However they left with neither and they are now willing on Tasman to not let Manawatu get two competition points or more in their showdown on Sunday afternoon or else their season is toast.
To be brutally honest Southland probably do not deserve to be semi-finalists with their four win six loss record but they will be eager to have a shot next week to make the 2013 season an encouraging one after all.
Southland's night started in a horror fashion and it was the back three of Robbie Robinson, Tim Cornforth and Bryan Milne who put their team under too much pressure early in the game.
When Counties halfback Kane Hancy went to the box kick the Southland back three either didn't look interested in catching it or when they did made a hash of it.
Counties opened the scoring in the 8th minute when Robinson and Cornforth muffed a high ball which eventually led to lock Ronald Raaymakers crossing and the Baden Kerr conversion made it 7-nil.
More worrying though for Cornforth was what looked to be a nasty sternam injury which forced him from the field in the 14th minute.
He was replaced by 20-year-old Keanu Kahukura who did produce some encouraging touches.
Counties second try to captain Fritz Lee come after openside flanker Maama Vaipulu found a hole in the middle of the field after a lineout move.
When fullback Ashee Tuala then scored late in the first half to push the score out to 22-nil this game was all but gone for Southland.
To the visitors credit the did turn in a more spirited half getting more possession and territory and in turn out scoring Counties 7-3 however it wasn't enough.
The Southland forwards, in particular veterans Hale T-Pole and David Hall, tried their best all night but the reality is you don't get awards for trying hard at this level.
The accuracy wasn't where it needed to be for Southland and that was most evident in the backline who mostly struggled.
Southland was limited in what they offered on attack and as a result Counties felt little troubles defending what they threw at them
Counties however do need credit for their showing as this team has added a spirited and courageous element to their game which goes with their attacking flair which they have always had.
Counties 25 (Ronald Raaymakers, Fritz Lee, Ashlee Tuala tries; Baden Kerr 2 con, 2 pen), Southland 7 (Robbie Robinson try; Scott Eade con).
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