Late try keeps Southland hopes alive
Fri, 12 Oct 2012 9:58p.m.
Southland kept their national provincial rugby championship semi-final hopes alive with a last-gasp 17-11 win over Manawatu in Invercargill.
Both teams went into the final match locked on 15 points and fighting Northland for the last play-off spot.
Manawatu led 11-10 for most of the second half, but Southland timed their run to perfection as fullback Marty McKenzie dived across in the corner on the siren.
The Stags now ease into fourth place but can be displaced by fifth-placed Northland if they beat leaders Counties Manukau in Whangarei on Saturday.
Manawatu first five-eighth Nathan George controlled the game well early on at a rain-drenched Rugby Park, his intelligent kicking game finding good field position in treacherously slippery conditions.
Southland battled back, keeping the ball close and laying siege to Manawatu line in an endless series of scrums.
Their patience was rewarded after 20 minutes when centre Cardiff Vaega scored in the corner after Manawatu well-organised defence finally cracked.
Eight minutes later the visitors were back in the match, prop Ma'afu Fia burrowing over from close range to steal back the lead 8-7 at halftime.
The second half turned into a battle of attrition, with only a penalty apiece from Southland's Scott Eade and Manawatu's Craig Clare until McKenzie's late matchwinner.
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