Tasman and Southland dress in remarkably similar colours but could hardly be having more contrasting seasons.
Wearing slightly different shades of maroon, it was remarkable that the players coped so well with the colour confusion at Landsdowne Park in Blenheim tonight (Wed) .
As it was, Southland made a start which belied their three-loss start to the season, though they finished in familiar fashion. Tasman, with excellent victories over Canterbury and Manawatu (and a close Ranfurly Shield defeat to Taranaki) under their belts, were error prone, something Stags' No8 Elliot Dixon, returning from a long-term chest injury, was keen to exploit.
But the now familiar frailties returned, Tasman scoring through Peter Betham, a wing who scored a 50m try in which he beat five would-be defenders with speed, balance, elusiveness and a fend reminiscent of Cory Jane.
With Tasman losing their early rust, they struck first after the break too, fullback Robbie Malneek taking advantage of a mismatch against prop Jamie Mackintosh.
Remarkably, it was Tasman's first victory over Southland in five attempts and they thoroughly deserved it. Under the directorship of Kieran Keane and former All Black Leon MacDonald, they play with a free-flowing style. Southland tried to follow suit and gave themselves a chance with a converted try to replacement lock Alex Ryan which drew them level at 10-10, but they didn't quite have the quality to follow through.
Tasman's margin of victory would have been greater but for Andrew Goodman's three missed attempts at goal and it was Hayden Cripps who broke the deadlock, though his side had to cope with two extremely nervous minutes after the hooter when Southland threw everything at them in an exciting last-ditch bid.
The Makos will fancy their chances of more success in Blenheim on Sunday when they play Northland. Southland host Hawkes Bay in Invercargill on the same day. They will be hoping to break their duck in a season rapidly going south.
Tasman 13 (Peter Betham, Robbie Malneek tries; Hayden Cripps pen)
Southland 10 (Alex Ryan try; Scott Eade con; Marty McKenzie pen)