Things were looking good on Friday night for Southland at halftime. The underdogs (so much so that the TAB had suspended betting on the game) were level 17-all with Ranfurly Shield holders Canterbury, and could sniff a famous victory.
40 mins later and the Stags had haemorrhaged an incredible 61 points, scored by a Canterbury side that was clearly using the first half as an excuse to boost TV viewers by keeping it interesting.
Wings Braydon Ennor and George Bridge scored four and three tries respectively for the hosts, while Richie Mo’unga contributed 23 points for a true ‘game of two halves’. The result now leaves Canterbury as the only unbeaten team in the competition and firm favourites to take out a ninth title.
Tasman knocked off the previously unbeaten Wellington in a tight 37-35 win in Blenheim.
First five Mitch Hunt racked up 22 points, including the winning try for the Makos. Earlier it seemed like Wellington were on course to continue their great start to the season with two spectacular 100 metre team tries.
However, the clutch kicker spearheaded a comeback for the home team, who withstood a late onslaught from Wellington to register victory.
Further south in Dunedin, Fletcher Smith outdid both Mo’unga and Hunt by scoring a whopping 34 points in Otago’s 64-21 win over Hawkes Bay in Napier.
Smith crossed for a hattrick, and kicked eight conversions and a penalty as Otago romped to a record win over the Magpies – their first in Napier since 1993.
In other games, the impressive Northland overcame Waikato 37-7, Taranaki heaped more misery on Auckland at Eden Park, thrashing them 49-38, while Bay of Plenty ground out a boring 20-17 win over Manawatu.