ITM Cup - Round 4 Review
Southland leading the way
August 22, 2010

Southland lead the way in the ITM Cup standings after securing a 23-20 win over Hawke's Bay in Napier on Sunday, their fourth straight triumph in this season's competition.

A last minute try from wing Zac Guildford earned Hawke's Bay a bonus point but they were left to rue missed goalkicking opportunities after first five-eighth Daniel Kirkpatrick succeeded with just two of his six attempts.

Southland suffered an early setback when Sinoti Sinoti scored in just the second minute, set up by second five-eighth Andrew Horrell, who benefited from the confusion caused by three decoy runners to slice through a big hole before sending out a wide ball for his winger. The Ranfurly Shield holders responded in style as they converted a lineout take into a try when fullback Glen Horton entered the backline and slipped past Sinoti to create an overlap for left wing Pehi Te Whare.

Robbie Robinson's conversion saw Southland sneak ahead but the lead changed hands within two minutes when Hawke's Bay hooker Hika Elliot galloped 40 metres upfield before the ball was spread to the left for lock Ross Kennedy to cross in the corner.

Southland second five-eighth Matt Saunders edged his side in front again after running on to a stab kick through from wing Tony Koonwaiyou to slide across the line. Robinson then won the battle of the kickers with a clutch of long-range kicks, before Guildford set off on a gliding run in the 79th minute.

Auckland took the direct approach to break down Northland's resistance and win 26-13 on Sunday.

Auckland's third victory in four outings owed much to their stinging physicality which saw them dominate the breakdown as well as repeatedly disrupt Northland's scrum ball at Eden Park. Northland's attacking sharpness, evident in last weekend's 77-8 dismantling of Manawatu, was effectively blunted because Auckland denied them quality possession, with flanker Daniel Braid and prop Charlie Faumuina both prominent in the home side's action plan.

Auckland showed patience as well, taking a modest 9-3 lead into the halftime break on the back of three Mathew Berquist penalties. They were finally rewarded after the restart though when prop Pauliasi Manu burrowed over the line from a ruck.

Northland hit back via a second penalty for fullback Lachie Munro before Auckland extended their advantage when replacement halfback Toby Morland showed strength to bounce up after being tackled to fling himself over the line.

But Northland have character and are not easily silenced, as they showed by scoring a try of their own minutes later to stay in the contest. It went to hooker Mikaele Tuu'u, who accepted a wide pass near the right-hand touchline and had enough pace to reach the line. Berquist's fourth penalty in the 62nd minute lifted his personal haul to 16 points and gave Auckland a 13-point buffer, which Northland could not narrow.

Counties Manukau proved too strong for Manawatu as they briefly went top of the ITM Cup table on Saturday, running out 35-14 winners at Pukekohe.

It was an improvement of sorts for Manawatu who lost 77-8 to Northland last week, but while they demonstrated plenty of commitment, they lacked the class to match their opponents who ran in five converted tries.

New Zealand Sevens star Fritz Lee was the star of the show, scoring the first try after good work from his international Sevens teammate Sherwin Stowers. Casey Stone replied with a Manawatu try, but Mark Selwyn's try restored the advantage going into the break. Second half tries from Ashee Tuala, Stowers and Tim Nanai-Williams sealed the win.

Stowers' solo effort the pick of the bunch. The pacey back sealed a bonus point plus the outcome in the 61st minute, with a sizzling solo effort down the left flank where he used speed and footwork to leave five defenders sprawling.

Wellington winger Julian Savea was the star of the show as he underlined his status as one of the most exciting prospects in the ITM Cup as his side beat Waikato 26-14 here tonight.

Savea provided some of the brightest moments in a game deservedly won by the hosts, who scored three tries to one and led 16-9 at halftime. The best was his try on the half hour mark which brought to life a game dominated by the shots at goal until that point.

The 20-year-old unleashed a stinging left-arm fend on Trent Renata and blitzed the cover defence with his pace over 40m to hand Wellington the lead for the first time, something they weren't to relinquish. Lock Daniel Ramsay scored soon afterwards in a move set up by a half-break from Savea, the star of New Zealand's triumphant junior world championship campaign this year.

Wellington dominated the first half with their attacking, ball-in-hand attitude, with winger Hosea Gear, centre Sean Treeby and halfback Alby Mathewson others to shine. However, ill-discipline often let them down, allowing Waikato to stay within arm's reach.

However, the visitors managed just one try, to flanker Jack Lam early in the second half, and otherwise relied on the erratic goalkicking boot of Renata who slotted three penalties in the first half. Opposite number Fa'atonu Fili also had problems with his radar but managed to penalty and dropped goal before halftime while converting a try to hooker Dane Coles midway through the second spell.

Tasman held off a determined Canterbury comeback to stun the holders with a 27-25 at Trafalgar Park in Saturday's earlier kick off.

It was Tasman's first win over their opponents in five attempts and they looked comfortable when leading 27-10, but the two time champions fought back to push the match to the wire, before ultimately suffering their first defeat of the season.

Three first-half tries saw Tasman go clear before Canterbury awoke early in the second half when midfield back Robbie Fruean was sinbinned for a ruck infringement. Tasman were easily the better team in the first half, taking advantage of some sloppy Canterbury play with tries from Tom Marshall, wing James Kamana and hooker Francis Smith cancelling out Telusa Veainu's seventh minute effort.

But replacement out-half Andy Ellis led the Canterbury come back as they fought back to within two points. Impressive fullback Sean Maitland, who surged through in midfield before drawing the last defender to present Ellis with a stroll to the line to narrow the gap, before Canterbury stretched Tasman on the left flank before a gap was created on the right for Fualau to charge over the line in the 57th minute and all of a sudden they were back in the contest.

Although Colin Slade managed a long range penalty to bring the gap down to two, they could take the charge no further as Tasman regrouped and saw the win out.

Taranaki continued their impressive start by beating Bay of Plenty 24-15 in New Plymouth on Friday - a win that lifted them to the top of the table overnight.

It marked Taranaki's third successive win following a first round loss at home to Northland and meant they will remain near the top of the standings after the fourth round is completed this weekend.

Taranaki, who led 24-7 at half-time, worked overtime on defence to make up for the shortcomings in the possession stakes, particularly in the third quarter as they soaked up continuous pressure from the visitors. Bay of Plenty lacked a game-breaker and for all their honest toil they rarely threatened to break down a determined Taranaki defensive screen until the 71st minute when Phil Burleigh cut through a gap in the midfield before drawing the last defender and leaving replacement wing Ben Smith with an unimpeded run to the line.

Taranaki scored three first half tries, the first to flanker Scott Waldrom, who stretched full length in the tackle after charging on to a pass from Brett Goodin after the halfback skirted around a ruck near the 22. Jayden Hayward added a second and while Bay of Plenty narrowed the gap as Colin Bourke touched down from a rolling maul, Smith restored the lead after good work from Kurt Baker.

A dominant second half performance allowed North Harbour to turn around a 14-point deficit and defeat Otago 35-23 in Albany on Thursday. Two tries in two minutes helped Otago to a 23-9 lead before halftime and they looked a good chance to lift themselves off the bottom of the provincial championship table.

Otago's Glenn Dickson and North Harbour's Ben Botica traded penalties in the first 20 minutes, but the southerners had the best of the play and they were rewarded with two tries in two minutes shortly after the 20 minute mark. Replacement prop Halani Aulika was first to score, smuggling the ball from a ruck to charge 5m to score.

Shortly afterwards winger Joe Hill won the race to a Ben Smith kick to score near the corner with Dickson converting to make the lead 20-6. Further penalties to Botica and Dickson before halftime saw the visitors take a 14 point lead at the break. But a half-time rev-up from coach Craig Dowd awakened North Harbour and they quickly got back in the game.

Two more Botica penalties got Harbour moving, and then in the 55th minute a lineout steal gave the home team possession close to the Otago line, and a few phases later flanker Malakai Ravulo forced his way over the line. Botica's conversion brought North Harbour within one point.

North Harbour were by this time dominating, and a regular stream of breakdown penalties given away by Otago cost them the lead. Luke McAlister, who took over the goalkicking after Botica was substituted, put the home team in front for the first time in the 61st minute, and he stretched the lead to four points three minutes later. The home team secured the win when Ravulo latched onto a speculator pass from Otago winger Fetu'u Vainikolo with three minutes to play and he ran 10m to score.


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