Discarded All Black Stephen Donald ensured he doesn't slip entirely into oblivion or off the national radar when he scored all the points and controlled play as Waikato opened their NPC campaign with a 19-9 win over Southland at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Friday.
It was a very disappointing start for Southland to the domestic season - with the Stags a pale shadow of the team which started last season as Ranfurly Shield holders and topped the standings for sometime.
Friday's flat performance offers scant hope for a tough week which includes a mid-week game against Hawke's Bay before the Shield challenge against Canterbury next Saturday.
In cold and damp conditions, with a light rain falling, there was only a smattering of a crowd around the ground.
Inside the first 10 minutes Donald opened the scoring - a typically hard-running effort from Donald close to the line. He converted his own try for a 7-0.
After Donald added a penalty to give Waikato a 10-nil lead, a scuffle involving Josh Bekhuis and Marty Holah saw Bekhuis and Waikato lock Romana Graham sent to the bin.
Stags debutante Scott Eade then landed a confidently-struck penalty from out near the 40-metre mark for Southland's first points.
Referee Garrett Williamson had given himself little room to move when a similar disagreement broke out between Jason Rutledge and Ben May. Suddenly a game which could hardly be called open warfare had been cut to 13-a-side, prompting the ridiculous sight of Southland skipper Jamie Mackintosh throwing into a line-out.
Donald kicked the penalty, awarded to the Mooloo Men following the previous batch of cards, for a 13-3 lead to the visitors.
Eade then landed two more penalties as the gap closed to 9-13.
Just after the second half restart Donald kicked his third penalty to put Waikato ahead 16-9.
The final score came when Southland were hot on the attack, before Donald intercepted and then Waikato won a penalty from a resulting ruck.
Donald pushed the lead out to 19-9.
While there were a number of Southland players on debut, there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm from the team's more experienced players, most of whom may be struggling to back up from an exhaustive Highlanders Super Rugby campaign.
Pens: Eade 3
Pens: Donald 4
Southland: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Mark Wells, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Matt Saunders, 11 Glen Horton, 10 Scott Eade, 9 Scott Cowan, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Alex Taylor, 5 Ben Nally, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Nic Barrett, 18 Joe Tuineau, 19 Kaleni Taetuli, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 James Lew, 22 Tim Cornforth, 23 Michael Peterson.
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Declan O'Donnell, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Matt Vant Leven, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Chris Middleton, 19 Zak Hohneck, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Tim Mikkelson, 22 Rena Schuster, 23 Ted Tauroa.
Referee: Garratt Williamson
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