First five-eighth Stephen Donald scored all his side's points and four players were sinbinned as Waikato beat Southland 19-9 in a testy IT Cup match at Rugby Park in Invercargill tonight.
Donald scored a try and landed four penalties and a conversion while his opposite Scott Eade, on debut, kicked three penalties in a match in which both sides failed to find top form.
Both sides had two players sinbinned for punching in a niggly first half and Waikato, beaten finalists last year, took a 13-9 lead into the break but should have been ahead by more such was their dominance.
A strong display from Donald, unwanted by the All Blacks selectors, and some strong second half defence in face of a spirited rally from the Stags ensured the Mooloos made a winning start to their campaign in the new look premiership division.
Waikato took an early lead when Donald, after a solid scrum five metres out from the Southland line, ran strongly at the line to burst through two defenders and stretched out to score adjacent to the posts.
After landing the conversion, Donald then added a penalty after the first bout of fisticuffs after 15 minutes. Southland lock Josh Bekhuis and his opposite Romana Graham were both sent to the sidelines to cool their heels after a scuffle.
Eade, on debut for Southland, got the Stags on the board from a penalty before more blows were traded on 25 minutes. Waikato prop Ben May and Southland hooker Jason Rutledge were the offenders this time and referee Garratt Williamson had little option to send them to join Graham and Bekhuis in the naughty seats.
Donald's second penalty of the half took the lead back out to 10 points, before two Eade kicks before the break cut the margin to four points.
But that was as close as they got as two Donald penalties in the second half secured the win as Waikato maintained their defensive discipline despite the hosts showing more endeavour in the second stanza.
Waikato 19 (Stephen Donald try, 4 pen, con) Southland 9 (Scott Eade 3 pen). Halftime: 13-9.
- Herald online