Southland start with victory over Bay of Plenty
Brad Mooar's tenure as Southland Stags coach has started in impressive fashion with the Stags racking up a 34-23 win over Bay of Plenty in the round one national provincial championship game tonight.
Southland had a mixed build up to their campaign but last night looked a team which can be a threat in the 2014 Championship section.
The scrum wasn't great, the skill level average but there is plenty to build off for Southland as the season draws on.
Southland opened the scoring after just two minutes when Bay of Plenty were penalised for not releasing at a ruck.
Lima Sopoaga, in his first NPC game for the Stags, had no problems from handy range to push Southland to a 3-nil lead.
However just a few minutes later, in Bay of Plenty's first trip inside Southland's 22m territory, the visitors scored the first try of the 2014 NPC competition.
The got some momentum and blindside flanker Johan Bardout brushed through some soft Southland defence to score. With the Dan Hollinshead conversion Bay of Plenty took a 7-3 lead.
In the 10th minute Southland opened their 2014 try scoring account through wing Lolohea Loco who has made the shift south from Counties.
It was started through a good steal by Stags midfielder Cardiff Vaega and finished by Loco who had plenty of work in front of him made light work of three attempted Bay of Plenty tackles.
The two first five-eights traded penalties before, with four minutes remaining in the first half, Southland delivered a killer blow.
Leading 11-10 from a scrum move centre Mark Jackman made a nice break which lead to No Elliot Dixon on the burst and he crossed to push it out to 18-10.
Sopoaga pushed the halftime lead out further when he kicked his third penalty of the first half to make it 21-10 at the break.
Southland a handy buffer but Bay of Plenty did have a handy second half wind to play with, something they didn't use to good effect.
Sopoaga pushed the lead out further in the second half with penalty wide out to make it 24-10.
While Bay of Plenty were able to stay in handy range through the boot Hollinshead they never looked likely on attack while Southland were able to make inroads.
It was in the 71st minute where Southland put knife through the visitors hopes with one of the better tries seen at Rugby Park in recent years.
Replacement midfielder Willis Halaholo made a strong run knocking out Bay of Plenty's Teddy Stanaway in the process. Halaholo off-loaded to Tayler Adams who found Cardiff Vaega in support and he put a nice kick through to the unmarked Junior Ngaluafe to score.
Bay of Plenty did score a consolation try in the 74th minute through prop Siegfried Fisiihoi but it was all to late.
Southland 34 (Lolohea Loco, Elliot Dixon, Junior Ngaluafe tries; Lima Sopoaga 5 pen, 2 con), Bay of Plenty 23 (Johan Bardout, Siegfried Fisiihoi tries; Dan Hollinshead 2 con, 3 pen).
What did you make of this year's ITM Cup?