Southland Stags move up to fourth place as NPC semi-final spot looms

Josh Moorby's try helped Southland to a memorable victory over Northland.

Robyn Edie / Stuff

Josh Moorby’s try helped Southland to a memorable victory over Northland.

The Southland Stags could reserve a place in the semi-finals as early as Wednesday night if all goes in their favor.

Southland’s 37-33 victory over Northland on Saturday propelled the Stags to fourth place in the Championship standings with 13 competition points.

Many outstanding points tables have Southland fifth with nine competition points, one point behind Northland.

However, Stags coach Dale MacLeod confirmed his team was fourth, one point ahead of Northland (12th).

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“I made sure it was okay, I went to NZ Rugby twice and the table was sent to us,” MacLeod said.

The confusion around the different point tables appears to stem from the canceled matches against Auckland-based teams.

The teams still competing received two competition points for these canceled matches.

Southland called off three games against Auckland, Counties and North Harbor, while Northland had two.

As the Stags collected the maximum points at Rugby Park on Saturday, Northland’s fourth try in the last minute meant they got both a bonus point for four tries and another for finishing under seven.

Northland’s final round robin game is Wednesday night against Bay of Plenty. If they got one or fewer points in the game, Southland’s place in the semi-finals in the five-team competition would be blocked.

If Northland wins Wednesday night against Bay of Plenty, Southland will have to beat Taranaki in their final round robin game on Sunday.

The outcome of Wednesday’s game will likely determine the Stags’ approach to Taranaki’s game.

If the semi-final spot is already sorted, MacLeod may be able to rest a few players who have injury issues.

Tight-headed mainstay Chris Apoua is one such player. He missed Saturday’s win over Northland with back pain.

Southland’s external resources are also under pressure.

Rory van Vugt, Marty McKenzie and Josh Moorby all had to leave the field on Saturday due to blows to the head.

van Vugt and McKenzie are potential options for Taranaki’s game, but Moorby looks set to be sidelined.

“The three outside full-backs who were hit to the head, it was just bad tackling technique, that simple. It’s something we’ll be addressing this week, ”MacLeod said.

“All three of them were exactly the same, they went for a bear hug and got their face slapped.”

Added to this is that Solomon Alaimalo had a calf problem that forced him to leave the field against Northland, while Amanaki Nicole also has a calf injury.

“We looked like a Rolls-Royce in the bottom three rows having to make tough calls in the last three weeks, for fitness survival.”

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