Southland have come ever so close to snatching the Ranfurly Shield off Hawke’s Bay in the final challenge of 2014, however the Stags had to settle for a 20-20 draw at McLean Park.
Local boy and Shield hero Ihaia West, showing those exemplary nerves of steel, slotted over a drop goal with barely a minute left up on the clock.
Southland fans would have been disconsolate, after Lima Sopoaga, who had another superior outing at first five-eighth, kicked a long range penalty with roughly five minutes left to play.
However any potential celebrations for the tourists were quickly muted, although they did have cause for joy at the end of the match.
The two competition points ensure that the Stags have qualified for the ITM Cup Championship semi-finals.
However for the Magpies, who will also play knockout rugby, might mark the stale mate to be as good as a draw.
After defeating Counties at the end of August to claim the Shield, Hawke’s Bay have repelled four challenges.
The Stags join Otago, Bay of Plenty and Wellington as unsuccessful contestants.
More to follow…