Southland finally got on the board for 2012 with an emphatic 35-7 thumping of Hawke's Bay in Invercargill.
Breakdown dominance gave the hosts the cutting edge to streak away comfortably in the second half, engaging bodies in the tackle for fun in a traditional southern battering.
Leading from the low numbers, captain Jamie Mackintosh and Jason Rutledge both dotted down in inspired performances that showed their obvious pride in the Southland jersey and the hurt of four ITM Cup losses on the trot.
The intent was clear, as the hosts held onto the ball for the opening salvos, with Southland stalwart Jimmy Cowan presented for his 100th match, but guilty of gifting Daniel Waenga a dart to a metre short after a wayward pass. Prop Adrian Barone ducked his way underneath the next wave of tacklers and the Magpies drew first blood against the run of play.
The advantage at the breakdown enabled Cowan to make amends, busily marshalling his side up the field and a whisker away from levelling the scores, but for a line ball on the try line to be called foul.
Two penalties from first-five Scott Eade got the Stags moving, as they camped in Bay half and began to grind away as best they know how, refusing to budge in close and hassling Magpies, who fell to grass.
The 9-7 halftime lead went to the Maroons, after another forced enfringement and they had their red-zone defence to thank, as the easy metres on attack were all the visitors'.
Two Rutledge turnovers five minutes apart reeked of Andrew Hore's tutelage and salvaged what was soft defence in the Southland midfield throughout the half.
The start of the second stanza highlighted Southland's 2012 problems, struggling to pose any real danger to the opposition line, until Cowan tried to cap his century with his last action, caught agonizingly short before captain Mackintosh drove over from point blank.
At 16-7, the ball stayed in the home mitts, and the same formula bought about Rutledge's try and a kick in the pants for the black-and-whites that almost set up a grandstand finish, but for Karl Lowe's stumbling goal-line dive bringing a fumble.
The proverbial blanket was placed over the Stags pack, as they never missed a beat in working their way up field. After the scare, winger Tim Cornforth showing how long his arm was, as he reached out in the tackle to place in the corner with 10 minutes left.
The bonus-point try was icing on Cowan's cake, as a Robbie Robinson break provided the field position for Cornforth to step his way through the tackle and put replacement flanker Dion Bates over under the sticks.
Back to their basics, Southland showed they aren't spent for the year with that man again - Cowan - getting underneath No 8 Scott Coman to hold up the ball in the last act.
Southland 35 (J.Mackintosh, J.Rutledge, T.Cornforth, D.Bates tries; S. Eade, M.Mckenzie 3 cons; Eade 3 pens) Hawkes Bay 7 (A.Barone try; D.Waenga con); HT: 9-7