Southland Stags suffer fourth straight loss
Southland's season of misery continues.
Long range tries to Tasman's Peter Betham and Robbie Malneek consigned the winless Stags to their fourth straight loss, going down 13-10 in Blenheim.
After a strong opening 20 minutes, the Stags went back to the pack of strugglers, which have been unable to find their way so far this season.
Southland will now try and give Jimmy Cowan something to celebrate when he runs out for his 100th appearance in a Stags jersey, against Hawke's Bay in Invercargill on Sunday.
The Stags, who did show more endeavour than at any other time this season, were in the game with 20 minutes to go when Alex Ryan's try levelled the scores at 10-all They still had a chance in the dying minutes, but it wasn't to be.
Southland had the better of the first half, attacking Tasman's ball at the ruck, contesting in the lineouts and coming off their line with intent and determination, although they did battle at scrumtime.
An early penalty to Marty McKenzie got the Stags onto the board and there was the promise of more points to come as Cardiff Vaega, Michael Fatialofa and Junior Ngaluafe produced linebreaks.
Elliot Dixon, returning to the back of the Southland scrum after a long-term chest injury, ran hard before going off the boil.
Backing up from a win over Manawatu on Sunday, Tasman were stauncher in the shadow of their goal line and Southland were again guilty of not coming up with an accurate final pass.
Tasman turned crumbs of possession into a veritable feast, with Betham carving off huge amounts of territory whenever he got the ball in broken play.
Betham has played for the Rebels and Waratahs at Super Rugby level, with little success, but he is turning into a star of the NPC and his try after half an hour tonight will dominate highlight reels for the rest of the season.
After beating an outstretched Jimmy Cowan, Betham fended off Mark Wells and tiptoed down the touchline before stepping the attempted covering tackles of both Robbie Robinson and McKenzie.
Thirty minutes of good work had been undone in less than 30 seconds as Tasman took a lead they would hold until halftime.
The Stags were a lot better on defence when they held up dangerous centre Kieron Fonotia earlier in the game, and Ngaluafe - who left the field with suspected concussion - did well to mow down Quentin MacDonald from behind, when a try seemed imminent.
The loss of Ngaluafe, who should be happy with his starting debut, prompted a backline reshuffle as McKenzie moved to the wing and Robbie Robinson moved to fullback.
Scott Eade was elusive, running as a replacement No 10, and Fijian halfback Nemia Kenatale again provided a spark coming off the bench, helping lay on the try to Ryan after Tasman failed to field a seemingly innocuous Robinson bomb.
The Stags hadn't lost four games in a row since 2006 and hadn't lost to Tasman in four previous games going back to 2006.
They now have three days to prepare to take on the team which replaced them in the premiership this season, and to find whatever ingredient it is that is currently missing.
Tasman 13 (Peter Betham, Robbie Malneek tries; Hayden Cripps pen)
Southland 10 (Alex Ryan try; Marty McKenzie pen, Scott Eade con)
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