Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Southland register first win of the season

Josh Bekhuis scored a vital try in Southland's win over Waikato. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Bekhuis scored a vital try in Southland's win over Waikato. Photo / Getty Images

When lock Josh Bekhuis crashed over for Southland's second try of tonight's 20-16 victory over Waikato a television commentator joked it was a "try-fest'' for the Stags.

The commentator may have used the term in jest but by Southland standards, the two-try romp against the Mooloos in Invercargill was a splurge.

Coming in to tonight's game Southland had only managed one five-pointer in their first three contests of the year - all losses - and this win over Waikato will give them plenty of confidence.

It wasn't pretty - it rarely is with the Stags - but they showed the type of character and determination that would have pleased coach David Henderson.

Southland first-five Marty McKenzie had an opening half hour to forget as Waikato eased out to a 9-0 lead on the back of three penalties from fullback Trent Renata.

A try to centre Cardiff Vaega finally got Southland in to the game when he was the recipient of some good work following a charged-down kick.

McKenzie added the conversion then knocked over a penalty from close range as Southland took a 10-9 lead to the break after a first-half which produced 14 handling errors as both sides continually found ways to introduce the ball to the turf.

As the second spell got underway, Waikato simply lost the ability to produce points and when Bekhuis smuggled the ball across the line in the 47th minute Southland were energized.

It marked a complete turnaround from the opening half. In the first 17 minutes Waikato had a remarkable 91 per cent of territory on offer but Southland evened the ledger in the second spell as their backs became more accurate with their kicking for position.

Southland halfback Tayler Adams was sent to the sin bin in the 69th minute, which resulted in an instant try for the Mooloos as replacement wing Semisi Masirewa scored from the resulting scrum as Waikato came storming back.

Leading 17-16, but a man down, Southland had to hold on and when the left-footed Scott Eade added a crucial penalty, Waikato were forced to chase the game with only seven minutes left.

But they couldn't find a match-winning try and when Southland hooker David Hall booted the ball to touch a maiden win was secured for the home side.

Game changer: Southland back Scott Eade was sent in to the trenches early in the second spell and moved in to the first-five role. His accurate kicking game in general play proved vital for Southland and he added a couple of useful goals to see the Stags home.

Relegation bound? Waikato have only won one from four this year and are now locked in a battle alongside Bay of Plenty and Counties Manukau to stay afloat in the Premiership division. It's all gone downhill since they lost the Ranfurly Shield in week two.

Southland 20 (Cardiff Vaega, Josh Bekhuis tries; Marty McKenzie con, pen, Scott Eade con, pen) Waikato 16 (Semisi Masirewa try; Trent Renata 3 pen, con) HT: 10-9


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