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

Rugby: Southland keep season alive

Jamie Mackintosh's celebrated his 100th game for Southland with a typically brutal 80-minute effort in his side's 38-32 win over Otago. Photo / Getty
Jamie Mackintosh's celebrated his 100th game for Southland with a typically brutal 80-minute effort in his side's 38-32 win over Otago. Photo / Getty

For the third week in a row, Southland have come from behind to steal the points in the ITM Cup as they toppled Otago 38-32 in Dunedin this afternoon.

Following their come-from-behind victories over Bay of Plenty and North Harbour in the past fortnight, the Stags travelled up the road to meet their fiercest rivals, who have played against each other since August 13, 1887.

These derby games always yield a hotly-contested spectacle and today's encounter was no different. There were lead changes, crunch referee calls, dead-eye goalkicking, some brilliant individual efforts and plenty of spirited defence, which added up to a stonkingly good fixture of rugby union.

It was veteran prop Jamie Mackintosh's 100th game for Southland and he celebrated it in fine style with a typically brutal 80-minute effort as he anchored a steady Stags scrum.

Hooker David Hall should join Mackintosh in the 100 club next week after he logged his 99th appearance this afternoon.

The victory moved Southland to second place in the Championship - for now - and they look odds on to finish in the top four with games to come against Hawkes Bay and Counties Manukau.

The Stags scored five tries in all as Willis Halaholo, Cardiff Vaega, Elliot Dixon, Scott Eade and Tayler Adams all got on the scoresheet, while a collection of penalties and conversions from Eade proved useful.

The turning point came after Marty McKenzie left the field with an injury and Scott Eade moved to pivot.

Eade began the game at halfback but with him running the cutter and replacement No 9 Adams on the paddock, Southland enjoyed better direction in the second half of a game that lacked structure as it was played at such a frenetic pace.

The contest was a great advertisement for indoor stadiums as both sides were able to throw the ball around without having to navigate the conditions.

Otago wing Buxton Popoali'i had a blinder as he bagged a double, including the game's first five-pointer, and he also made a brilliant try-saving tackle late in the piece.

Hayden Parker's goalkicking kept Otago in the contest, while he also added a crucial try late in the first spell on the back of a chip-kick gone wrong from Southland fullback Robbie Robinson.

With a 20-11 lead at the break Otago looked like they would kick on to a win in front of their home fans but the Stags never gave in and were duly rewarded when the final whistle blew as their comeback was complete.

Cardiac Stags: Southland have now chalked up three come-from-behind wins in a row as their season has been given a much-needed dose of adrenalin. They will be a handful come playoff time

Try of the match: Southland's midfield of Willis Halaholo and Cardiff Vaega are pairing loaded with bombast and they were part of a brilliant breakout try in the first spell that was finished off by Halaholo. It was scintillating stuff.

Southland 38 (Willis Halaholo, Cardiff Vaega, Elliot Dixon, Scott Eade, Tayler Adams tries; Marty McKenzie pen, Eade 2 pen, 2 con)
Otago 32 (Buxton Popoali'i 2, Hayden Parker, Kieran Moffat tries; Parker 2 pen, 3 con)
HT: 11-20


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