Rugby: Southland keep dream alive

Scott Eade of Southland passes during the round 15 ITM Cup match between Southland and Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images.
Scott Eade of Southland passes during the round 15 ITM Cup match between Southland and Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images.

Manawatu 11
Southland 17

Southland fullback Marty Mckenzie has kept his sides ITM Cup dream alive by scoring a last minute try to snatch a win over Manawatu on a wet, muddy, miserable night in Invercargill.

Trailing 11-10 with less than a minute on the clock, Mckenzie bundled his way over the try-line to cue wild celebrations from the brave home fans that had weathered the atrocious conditions.

Despite winning only their fourth game this year Southland now stand a chance of making the championship semifinals, if fifth placed Northland lose to Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe tomorrow night.

It looked like Southland's semifinal dream was over after consecutive defeats to Canterbury and Taranaki but a gritty, scrappy win under tough circumstances tonight has allowed them to dream of a semifinal berth.

But for Manawatu it brings an end to a disappointing season in which they only managed three wins from their 10 games.

Conditions dictated the early phases of the game, where the slippery ball meant both sides tried to keep it close and reduce handling errors.

Despite the slips and slides, both sides were visibly up for the match and there was passion and determination in abundance at every breakdown and in every tackle.

Perhaps the best example of the desire to win was shown by Southland's Jamie Mackintosh who changed his mind 10 minutes before kick-off about playing through a rib-cartilage injury.

He led by example and played a role in Southland's opening try of the match when Cardiff Vaega gave the home side a 5-3 lead after 22 minutes.

Manawatu have conceded the most points in this year's competition but they also boast a pretty slick attack and the question was when, not if, they would break down the Southland defence.

Ma'afu Fia answered the call in the 28th minute driving over from close range after a period of dominance from the visitors.

The second half was one for the purists. The brave few that weathered the inclement weather watched 39 minutes of scoreless second half action before Mckenzie won the match with the last play of the game.

Southland 17 (C Vaeaga try, M McKenzie; S Eade 2 con; 1 pen) Manawatu 11 (M Fia try; N George pen; L Marshall pen) Halftime 7-8

-nzherald.co.nz

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