ITM Cup: Round Eight
Lions and Magpies show class in ITM Cup Championship
ESPN Staff
October 5, 2015

Bay of Plenty 13-31 Wellington

Wellington maintained their push for immediate promotion back to the ITM Cup Premiership, but only after they had been reduced to 13 men by yellow cards to props Jeffery To'omaga-Allen and Ben May midway

The Lions made a strong start with veteran lock Jeremy Thrush posting two tries within 15 minutes - both from a lineout drive - but Bay of Plenty reduced the margin through a fine try from Johan Bardoul, the flanker touching down a turnover try after Chase Tiatia had collected a grubber kick behind the Wellington line and flipped the ball to him.

Wellington posted their third try immediately from the start of the second half, when Ardie Savea raced clear after the Steamers had spilled a pass, but they then lost To'omaga-Allen to the sin-bin, as a result of infringing too often at the breakdown, and the Steamers landed the subsequent penalty. Wellington then lost May to the sin-bin, for dangerous play, but that seemed to galvanise Savea and Thrush and the Lions pounded the Steamers' line before Cory Jane scored the bonus point try.

Replacement wing Tomasi Alosio iced the victory with an intercept try at the finish.

Southland 28-35 Hawke's Bay

© Getty Images

Hawke's Bay confirmed their standing as the best team in the ITM Cup Championship with a brave and spirited performance to defeat the Stags at Rugby Park.

The teams traded penalties before Southland posted the first try from a long throw 12 minutes into the game, when Willis Halaholo collected the ball, powered through the Magpies' defence and out-stripped Zac Guildford to score in the corner. The Stags crossed again after Tyrone Elkington had posted another penalty for the Magpies, with Guy Millar touching down after the ball had been hacked through, and they were full value for their 18-6 lead after the conversion and another penalty by Lima Sopoaga as half-time approached. But the Magpies scored a converted try through Robbie Fruean two minutes before oranges, after a period of sustained possession, and the momentum of the game changed.

Fruean off-loaded a lovely pass to Mason Emerson minutes into the second half, and the winger scotted clear for a converted try in the corner to give the Magpies their first lead of the game; it was a lead they would not relinquish as conditions deteriorated, with Ryan Tongia scoring two tries before Michael Molloy touched down for the Stags to complete the scoring.

Auckland's George Moala makes a break in his two-try performance © Getty Images

Auckland 64-21 Northland

George Moala and Akira Ioane each crossed twice as the 16-time champions to second place behind Canterbury with one round to play in the ITM Cup Premiership ladder, posting 60 points on their neighbours for the first time as the teams combined at Eden Park to produce the highest score in any national provincial championship match this season.

Northland are last on the ladder without a single point at the bottom of the Championship after eight straight losses, having conceded 185 points in their past four games, and they are in danger of becoming the first side since Counties Manukau in 2007 to complete a season without a single win.

Auckland had the game won long before half-time, and they led 35-0 at the break with rampaging New Zealand Under-20 No.8 Akira Ioane having snared his double. Moala, hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate and full-back Melani Nanai also scored before oranges, and the scond five-eighth, wing Lolagi Visinia, flanker Mitch Karpik and reserves Bryce Heem and Kirk Eklund crossed in the second stanza.

Northland scored tries through centre Warren Dunn and Mike Stolberg.

Auckland can clinch a home semi-final berth with victory away to Counties Manukau next week in the final round.

The Turbos didn't often have a handle on the Bulls' attack © Getty Images

Manawatu 10-44 Taranaki

Taranaki continued their late run to the national provincial rugby Premiership playoffs with a 44-10 win over Manawatu on Saturday in Palmerston North.

Backing up from last week's narrow win over previously unbeaten Canterbury, Taranaki ran in five tries in the bonus-point win to edge into second place on the ladder, two points clear of third-placed Tasman and six points behind Canterbury.

Taranaki's strength at the set piece proved key in their first-half domination - they were solid at scrum time, constantly pressured Manawatu's lineout and held a distinct edge at the breakdown. With plenty of front-foot ball, Taranaki were clinical in shifting the ball wide and created tries down the right to Jackson Ormand and down the left for fullback Kurt Baker.

Manawatu were unlucky not to score in the 32nd minute, a superb tackle from winger Latu Vaeno dragging his opposite number Newton Tudreu into touch fractionally before he touched down. Two minutes later, No.8 Toa Halafihi crossed in the corner to round off a solid first half for Taranaki, who took a 24-3 lead into the break.

Manawatu captain Callum Gibbins sparked the second half into life after four minutes, powering over after good work from an attacking lineout. But Taranaki hit back 10 minutes later with a bonus-point try to skipper Charlie Ngatai, his fifth of the season, before lock Blade Thomson crossed for the fifth on the counterattack.

Replacement first-five Liam McBride added a couple of late penalties to round out the comprehensive win.

Canterbury 41-25 Tasman

Canterbury wrapped up a home semi-final with a 41-25 win over Tasman in a top-of-the-table Premiership rugby clash in Nelson on Saturday. It was their third match in 11 days, but Canterbury were clinical in running in five tries to Tasman's three to secure the bonus-point win with only next week's game against Championship team Southland remaining before the play-offs.

Canterbury top the Premiership table with 38 points, with last week's 21-24 loss to defending champions Taranaki their only defeat of the season. There was little to separate the two teams early on at Trafalgar Park, a penalty apiece to Marty Banks and Tom Taylor all there was to show from the opening 25 minutes.

Tasman finally broke the deadlock, wing Viliami Lolohea making the initial break before Canterbury forced the turnover and tried to run their way out of trouble from inside their own 22. Tasman second five-eighth David Havili pounced on a loose pass from Canterbury prop Nepo Laulala, strolling across to give the home team a 10-3 lead.

Canterbury took barely two minutes to reply, playmaker Richie Mo'unga slicing through Tasman's rushing defence before finding Ryan Crotty on his shoulder, with openside flanker Matt Todd finishing the move clinically. Crotty featured in Canterbury's next try as well, wrapping up winger Johnny McNicholl's speculative kick ahead before offloading for second five-eighth Rob Thompson to touch down and give the visitors a 17-10 lead at half-time.

Canterbury looked set to run away with the game when Taylor latched onto another well-timed Crotty pass barely two minutes after the restart, opening up their lead to 24-10. Tasman could add only another penalty before Thompson crossed for his second of the match after 64 minutes, and Canterbury looked comfortable at 34-13 ahead.

Skipper Shane Christie hauled Tasman back into the match with two tries in as many minutes, narrowing Canterbury's lead to nine with 10 minutes remaining before Cameron McIntyre put the result beyond doubt with his 75th minute try.

Waikato 9-30 Counties Maukau

Waikato slipped closer to relegation but Counties Manukau have ensured they will escape that fate after winning their NPC Premiership match in Hamilton 30-9.

A match ruined by rain was sealed when Counties Manukau crossed for the only four tries, all in the last 22 minutes to captain Jimmy Tupou, No.8 Jordan Taufua and wingers Sione Fifita and Frank Halai. The game maintained the momentum of recent weeks, with Counties Manukau having now notched three wins on the trot while Waikato have crashed to four successive losses.

Victory leaves the visitors fifth, safe from relegation from the seven-team premiership with one game to play. They also have a slim chance of overhauling fourth-placed Taranaki if they record a bonus-point win over Auckland next week. Waikato remain sixth but are now in danger of being passed by last-placed Manawatu, who have two games remaining.

Waikato's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke's Bay in Napier next week will take on extra importance for a province which has failed to reach the play-offs for four successive seasons. Both teams struggled for any fluidity in rain which bordered on torrential at times but Waikato were guilty of making more simple mistakes, resulting in a serious territory deficit.

The dam burst in the 58th minute when lock Tupou barged over, followed 10min later when the impressive Fifita raced 50m after Waikato opposite Regan Ware spilled a high ball straight into his arms.

Taufua and Halai both crossed in the final 5min

First five-eighth Piers Francis kicked 10 points for Counties Manukau while Waikato opposite Damian McKenzie's three penalties provided their only points.

North Harbour 32-29 Otago

Otago maintained a measure of pressure on Hawke's Bay and Wellington atop with the ITM Cup Championship ladder, as they capitalised on unforced errors from winless North Harbour at QBE Stadium in Albany.

The teams traded penalties before Breen scored a try for Otago, winning a footrace after Matt Collins had kicked in behind the home defence, but the hosts went ahead through a converted try by Mike Little aafter Daniel Halangahu and Nafi Tuitavake had created the opportunity.

James Lentjes scored a try for the Razorbacks, who then scored penalties either side of half-time before Tuitavake burst onto a short pass from centre Pita Akhi and outpaced Collins to the line.

Jackson Hemopo scored for the Razorbacks after Harbour had spilled the re-start, and they kicked two more penalties to one by Halangahu. Jack Wilson then crossed for the bonus-point try, after a mistaake by Harbour's Josh Rowland, only for North to hit back for the final score of the game through Ahki.

Brendan Edmonds of Hawke's Bay © Getty Images

Wellington 22-22 Hawke's Bay

Wellington Lions blew the opportunity to leaap-frog Hawke's Bay atop the ITM Cup Championship table, but they were thankful to claim even a share of the spoils after Ihaia West missed a post-siren conversion that would have claimed victory for the Magpies. The Lions led 15-7 at half-time and held a 22-17 advantage with the siren about to sound, but Magpies winger Robbie Fruean touched down in the 79th minute after the hosts had failed multiple times to clear their lines under pressure.

Hawke's Bay dominated early and took the lead when Chris Eaton ran 50 metres for a solo try from a lineout move, but the Lions were soon level on the scoreboard, through Jason Woodward, after Matt Proctor had swept up a loose Hawke's Bay pass. Woodward landed a penalty before Lions prop Reg Goode and Magpies captain Brendon O'Connor scored tries from rolling mauls, either side of half-time, and Wellington flanker Vaea Fifita to score the hosts' third try. Woodward converted and the Lions led by eight points.

West kicked a penalty goal to get Hawke's Bay within the seven-point margin, but the visitors seemed unlikely to get anything more than a bonus point, such was the strength and determination of the home defence, until the Lions turned over a lineout and the Magpies moved the ball for Fruean to cross in the corner.


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