ITM Cup: Round Five
Manawatu break ITM Cup drought with strong win over Northland
September 14, 2015
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Manawatu 42-17 Northland

Manawatu have run in six tries, with winger Nathan Tudreu getting a brace, to beat Northland 42-17 in a rugby clash between two national provincial championship strugglers. Both teams had gone into the cross-over fixture in Palmerston North on Sunday looking to snap their losing starts to the ITM Cup.

Premiership side Manawatu set about breaking their drought by building a commanding 21-0 lead during the opening quarter against their Championship opponents. It was impressive fullback Semisi Masirewa, who was a constant threat with his pace and power, who got them on the board in the fifth minute by bursting through a gap to touch down.

Tudreu and flanker Heiden Bedwell chimed in with five-pointers to keep the score ticking over at quicker than a point a minute. After Tudreu completed his double early in the second half, prop Michael Alaalatoa and lock Valentino Mapapalangi also got on the scoresheet.

First five-eighth Otere Black landed five conversions before being substituted to stretch his perfect record in kicking conversions this season to 21. Northland did manage tries to No.8 Dan Pryor and centre Dave Thomas, but never threatened Manawatu's lead.

Auckland 35-29 Otago

Flanker Naulia Dawai's hat-trick of tries proved not enough as a plucky Otago fell to hosts Auckland 35-29 in the national provincial rugby championship. Otago went into the cross-over fixture on Sunday languishing near the bottom of the second-tier Championship, but they matched their Premiership opponents in scoring four tries.

However, they weren't able to convert any of them, as Auckland held on for a result that lifts them back to third in the top division. The lineout drive proved a weapon of choice for both teams at Eden Park, and all three of Dawai's five-pointers came after Otago kicked for the corner from penalties.

Despite facing the wind in the opening spell, Auckland appeared to be running away with the contest over the first half-hour as centre Charles Piutau, flanker Mitch Karpik and No.8 Akira Ioane all dotted down. But Dawai's treble in 14 minutes on either side of half-time brought the visitors back to within three points.

Having had so much success with the lineout drive, Otago then conceded in the same manner after Auckland also opted to kick for the corner from a penalty. From the ensuing maul, second five-eighth George Moala touched down to extend his try-a-game streak since the season began to six matches.

Otago hit back with a fine finish from winger Jack Wilson, but couldn't get any closer over the last quarter.

Canterbury 29-14 Hawke's Bay

Canterbury have produced a dominant performance to beat Hawke's Bay 29-14 in Christchurch and extend their winning start in the national provincial rugby championship to five matches. With skipper Luke Whitelock leading the way at No.8, Canterbury came up with plenty of intensity in the cross-over fixture on Saturday night to secure a result that keeps them one point behind Tasman at the top of the Premiership.

But the Magpies, leaders in the second-tier Championship, didn't help themselves with their high error rate as they fell to their first loss of the season. Canterbury were on the board after just a minute, dangerous second five-eighth Rob Thompson finding a big gap to touch down.

They had their second try five minutes later as winger Tulolo Tulolo chased down a kick ahead. Flanker Matt Todd got their third from a lineout move, crossing without a hand laid on him. Hawke's Bay's reply came early in the second spell, and in controversial fashion, with the television official ruling a try for winger Shannon Chase despite an apparent earlier knock-on.

Canterbury continued to control the contest and prop Joe Moody forced his way over midway through the second half for the bonus point try. But the Magpies had the last say, replacement winger Robbie Fruean finishing off a long-range attack against his former province.

Bay of Plenty 9 - 32 Taranaki

Taranaki have continued their turnaround from a slow start to their defence of the national provincial rugby title by downing Bay of Plenty 32-9. The Bulls took their time to subdue their opponents in the cross-over match in Rotorua on Saturday. But their powerful lineout drive proved the catalyst as they pulled away in the second half, eventually running in four tries.

After three successive defeats to begin the season, Taranaki have now strung together a hat-trick of wins to climb into the top four on the Premiership table. Bay of Plenty, third in the second-tier Championship, were called into plenty of tackling but showed resilience to go into the break up 6-3.

Taranaki twice had the ball over the goal-line in the opening spell, the second occasion after a 95-metre breakout, only to be called back for knock-ons. But they made a double breakthrough early the second period, after twice turning down penalty shots at goal to kick for the corner.

They rolled from the lineout both times and came up trumps as flanker Berny Hall and then No.8 Toa Halafihi touched down. When the Bulls again went for the touchline from a penalty, fullback Kurt Baker finished off a concerted attack.

With nine minutes to go, centre Seta Tamanivalu, who had been a constant threat with ball in hand, stepped his way over for the bonus-point try.

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North Harbour 28-20 Counties Manukau

North Harbour have produced a strong finish to upset Counties Manukau 28-20 in rugby's national provincial championship. The Steelers, from the top-tier Premiership, tied the scores through a penalty try with 12 minutes to go in the cross-over match in Auckland on Saturday.

But first five-eighth Daniel Halangahu edged the home side ahead with a penalty goal before Harbour's decision to kick for the corner from another penalty paid big dividends. They got a line-out drive going and, when the ball came free, second-five Michael Little was on hand to dive over.

The win was Harbour's second of the season and lifted them to fourth on the Championship ladder, while Counties Manukau remain second bottom in the Premiership after a fifth straight loss. The Steelers conceded first through a try to Harbour fullback Matt McGahan.

But they replied through flanker Sam Henwood's five-pointer and the boot of first-five Piers Francis to be up 13-7 at the interval. Harbour, turning around with the wind behind them, moved back in front with a couple of Halangahu penalties and a try to hooker James Parson, before conceding the penalty try for a collapsed scrum.

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Wellington 17-36 Tasman

Tasman have maintained their winning start to the national provincial rugby championship, coming from behind to down hosts Wellington 36-17. Both sides had come into Friday night's cross-over match with 4-0 records, Tasman in the top-tier Premiership and Wellington in the Championship.

But the Makos' aggression at the breakdown, which got them a heap of turnovers, proved key as they put four tries past their opponents with the best defence in either division of the ITM Cup. The visitors had trailed 12-6 early in the second half when in-form blindside flanker Peter Samu scored after lock Marco Kotze's big run.

Samu's work at the ruck then won the penalty from which second five-eighth David Havili kicked the first of his two long-range penalties. Centre Kieron Fonotia showed good strength to get Tasman's second try, before a Shane Christie tackle turned over the ball from which Kotze powered his way over.

Openside flanker and skipper Christie then got the bonus-point try off a lineout drive after Wellington had again coughed up the ball. The Lions did get a late consolation as winger Wes Goosen crossed for their third five-pointer. Tasman had begun the match the better and were rewarded with two Marty Banks penalties.

But Wellington began to dominate possession and territory and the Makos were called on to produce some big defence. The Lions finally broke through in the 25th minute, and it was flanker Vaea Fifita who was the instigator with one of his big breaks setting up halfback Frae Wilson for a try. They went further ahead shortly after half-time, Jackson Garden-Bishop - a replacement for fullback Cory Jane, who had gone off with a hip injury - finishing off a patient attack.

Waikato 30-25 Southland

Stephen Donald made his long-awaited return but his Waikato team-mate Damian McKenzie hogged the limelight in a 30-25 ITM Cup win over Southland in Hamilton. Donald played the last 10 minutes of the entertaining cross-over match at second five-eighth in front of a sparse crowd.

It was a far cry from his previous first-class game on New Zealand soil, the World Cup final win over France four years ago, when he came off the All Blacks bench at Eden Park to famously kick a decisive penalty goal. Donald made two tackles but didn't get a touch, instead leaving first five-eighth McKenzie and half-back Brad Webber to win the plaudits.

McKenzie landed all his six shots on a wet, windy night while also making several sizzling breaks as his team led 27-11 entering the final quarter. Webber's speed also caused problems for the visitors, creating the first try for wing Declan O'Donnell with a chip and scorching clear to bag the second himself.

Both teams scored three tries, with play opening up as conditions improved. Waikato took a 13-6 lead into the break. McKenzie and another excellent young No.10, Southland's Lima Sopoaga, enjoyed a quality duel. Sopoaga only missed one of his five shots and his all-round game delivered a reminder of how unfortunate he was to miss All Blacks World Cup selection.

Waikato, whose third try was scored by wing Dylan Collier, scrape past Taranaki into fourth place in the Premiership. They have accrued three wins and two losses nearing the midway point of the season but will have their credentials tested in coming rounds against Taranaki, Canterbury and Wellington.

Southland's tries came in rapid fashion in the second half to winger Keanu Kahukura, hooker Dillan Halaholo and centre Kieran Moffat. The bonus point leaves them fourth in the Championship but under pressure from teams below them following four straight losses.

Auckland 45-28 Manawatu

Auckland reclaimed third place on the ITM Cup Premiership ladder with a patchy performance against a stubborn Turbos team at Eden Park on Wednesday.

Auckland made their intentions clear from the first whistle, dominating possession and territory and earning two early penalties, and they posted three first-half tries to go to half-time with a 23-point lead before winless Manawatu battled back with three tries of their own in the second spell.

Auckland, riding high after thumping Waikato 50-28 four days ago, were ruthless in scoring at a point a minute in racking up a 27-0 lead - George Moala's 11th-minute try kick-starting proceedings off the back of a five-metre scrum before winger Ben Lam powered over after the hosts turned down another penalty 10 minutes later.

Australian prop Jono Owen finishing off well to open out the 27-0 lead after 27 minutes before Manawatu stole one back with a solid drive from their first attacking lineout, flanker Callum Gibbins showing good patience to score the Turbos' first try.

Another Simon Hickey penalty right on half-time gave Auckland a 30-7 lead at the break, but Manawatu showed impressive resilience to battle back. Valentino Mapapalangi finished off Jason Emery's elusive run in bulldozing over five minutes after the restart, and Semisi Masirewa capitalised on a chargedown to narrow Auckland's lead to 30-21 after 55 minutes before the hosts regained breathing space when Lam' crossed from a turnover.

Fraser Stone secured a consolation bonus point for Manawatu with his 74th-minute try, narrowing Auckland's lead to just seven, but the hosts posted 10 points in the final six minutes, including a try by teenage Sevens star Rieko Ioane, to ice the victory.

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