Stratford were left as the only side without a win at the end of the first round of Taranaki premier club rugby after they were narrowly beaten 35-27 by Southern at Hawera on Saturday.
In an entertaining game, particularly for the faithful at Hicks Park, eight tries were scored, five of them to the home side.
Southern produced arguably their best form of the season in the first quarter, as they suffocated Stratford from the opening whistle.
They hogged possession and territory, which enabled them to score two quick converted tries to captain Jackson Ormond and lock Jon Smyth.
Ormond was pleased with the first period of the game, which ultimately set up the victory.
"The first 20 minutes was the best we played all season. We played well wide, which opened up a few holes."
Stratford fought back in the second 20, with front rowers Daniel Bishop and Callum Williamson crossing to draw the visitors closer.
They did well to slow down the play and bring the pace of the game to their level.
But by halftime Southern had already scored the bonus point and were up 28-14.
The second half slowed down for Southern. Stratford enjoyed the majority of possession and managed to score a try to former All Black Jason Eaton.
Greg Rowlands kept Stratford in touch of a chance with his boot, but Southern had the game in the bag.
Nick Childs played a solid match at halfback for the central side, with a solid passing game and smart darts around the ruck.
Southern left winger Sean White had a sound game, which ended with him dotting down.
In all, Ormond was pleased with their first win and was still optimistic about a possible semifinals berth.
"We feel the season starts for us next week and, with the points halving, it gives us hope."
Southern still have a chance to defend their title but will need a lot of improvement in the second round.
Beaven Dewar is a Massey University student.
- Taranaki Daily News
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