Southland under-19 team progress to Michael Jones Trophy final in Taupo
The Southland under-19 team have progressed to the final of the Michael Jones Trophy after dishing out a convincing 36-8 win over the Heartland XV at the national tournament in Taupo.
Earlier Southland had beaten Taranaki 32-28 on Sunday to progress to the semifinal stage of the Michael Jones Trophy.
The Michael Jones Trophy is effectively the playoff for the bottom eight teams in the 16 team provincial under-19 competition.
The semifinal against the Heartland XV was expected to be a tight affair but Southland pushed out to a 17-3 lead and then on to the 36-8 win.
Big No 8 Lio Tosi again played a key role in the victory getting Southland on the front foot.
The forward pack has been Southland's strength, even with starting prop Kaydis Hona out of action.
Hona was sent-off in the win over Taranaki for a dangerous tackle and has received a four game suspension.
The halfback and first five-eighth combination of Jay Renton and Mitch Taylor were also key figures in the win over the Heartland XV, while second five-eighth Toka Sopoaga got through plenty of work.
Southland now have just three days before they take on Counties Manukau in the Michael Jones Trophy decider on Saturday.
Counties Manukau beat Hawke's Bay 20-3 in the other semifinal.
Southland under-19 coach Daryl Thompson said the goal before they headed to Taupo was to win the Michael Jones Trophy and now they have the perfect opportunity in front of them to do just that on Saturday.
Thompson said Counties are a big team and the challenge is for his players to halt them on attack.
"They are going to have to front up and stop those forward runners and do what we did today.
"The forwards got momentum [against the Heartland XV] and we've got to do the same against Counties."