Air New Zealand Cup - Round 2 Review
Carter inspires Canterbury's return to form
August 9, 2009
Canterbury's Dan Carter stretches the Auckland defence during their clash at Eden Park © Getty Images
The return of several All Blacks to the domestic stage added a little spice to the latest round of Air New Zealand Cup action.
Bay of Plenty brought the round to a close with a thumping 32-9 victory over Counties-Manukau on Sunday to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and climb to the top of the table.
Mike Delany steered BoP home with 17 points courtesy of five penalties, including one monster effort from 55m, and one conversion. The visitors showed a technical proficiency lacking in their opposites, superior body positioning meaning they held sway at the breakdown and turned over possession throughout.
Both teams were on the job defensively, with Counties-Manukau restricting Bay of Plenty to a lone try until the 70th minute when scrum-half Junior Poluleuligaga threw a long cutout pass from the midfield which was quickly ferried to left wing Jason Hona, who had an unimpeded run along the touchline.
Five minutes later centre Nigel Hunt extended Bay of Plenty's lead when he showed strength to bounce up from a tackle and plant the ball over the line before he was tackled again. The visitors' one strike in the first half, en route to a 16-6 lead at the interval, resulted from the pace and execution of their backs. They shifted the ball to the far right before heading to the far left where Hona was given sufficient space to cross in the corner.
On Friday, Southland defeated Otago 26-19 to back up their impressive opening win over Waikato in the opening round.
Fly-half Robbie Robinson was again instrumental, mixing intelligent tactical kicking with sound defence and moving the ball well as Southland made all the running early on. Otago gradually gained momentum, playing a territory game with copious kicking into a stiff breeze and putting constant pressure on the Southland lineout.
But fierce defence from both teams meant neither try line was really threatened, and penalties were traded at regular intervals until an Otago lapse of discipline right on the half-time whistle gave Robinson a chance out in front.
The poised 19-year-old calmly slotted the penalty to put Southland ahead 9-6 at the break, a lead which was quickly extended two minutes into the second spell. A slashing run from centre Jason Kawau put the Otago defence on the back foot. Flanker Tim Boys continued the momentum, and quick ball from the breakdown gave Robinson an extra second or two to find centre Kenny Lynn to score.
Giant lock Josh Bekhuis looked to have put the game beyond Otago's reach at the 60-minute mark when Southland's numbers to the breakdown put them on the front foot. Otago's defence was stretched too wide, and Bekhuis showed impressive power to score and put Southland ahead 23-12.
However, Warriors rugby league convert Ryan Shortland, in his first full game for Otago, put them back in touch with a well-taken try 10 minutes from the final whistle. Robinson relieved the pressure somewhat three minutes later with a penalty, but Southland still had to withstand a spirited Otago in the closing minutes.
Elsewhere, Wellington notched their second win of the season with a 21-13 victory over Hawke's Bay in Napier on Saturday. Trailing 10-13 at the break, Wellington stepped up their work at the breakdown and tightened their defence to starve Hawke's Bay opportunities in the second half.
Wellington took control of the game on the half hour mark when All Black Tamati Ellison was given too much room in the midfield, and his searing run from fullback split the defence before he unloaded for wing Hosea Gear to cross the tryline with Daniel Kirkpatrick adding the extras. But back came Hawke's Bay with prop Sona Taumalolo giving the sellout crowd the try they were demanding, burrowing through in the corner with a couple of minutes left on the clock. Berquist converted, and Hawke's Bay went into the break 13-10 ahead.
There was no let up in the second spell, with last year's semi-finalists Hawke's Bay hot on attack right from the whistle and Wellington's defence being sorely tested. However, they weathered the initial storm and a second Daniel Kirkpatrick penalty levelled the scores just short of the hour mark. Replacement first five-eighth Fa'atonu Fili slotted a dropped goal to give Wellington a 16-13 lead midway through the half.
Wellington again proved their worth on the counter-attack as wing David Smith latched on to a mistimed Zac Guildford chip kick, easily evaded some disinterested tacklers and crossed unopposed for the match-wining try.
Canterbury bounced back to winning ways after their opening round to defeat to North Harbour with a hard-fought 22-16 victory over Auckland at Eden Park. Dan Carter accelerated his return to international duty by contributing all his side's points courtesy of a try, five penalties and a conversion in just his second first-class outing since suffering a serious Achilles injury in France six months ago.
Carter's try was an immediate riposte to Auckland's own five-pointer and came courtesy of a Tim Bateman surge which split the Auckland defence up the middle. Centre Bateman did all the hard work before Carter loomed on his right shoulder to accept the pass and scamper the remaining 22m to the line.
Just moments earlier Auckland snuck into the lead for the only time when fullback Paul Williams scored after the home side strung several phases together for one of the few times in a largely lacklustre contest.
The first half was a tedious affair with a toothless Auckland fortunate to trail just 0-9 at the interval. Three Carter penalties were all Canterbury had to show for their dominance of both territory and possession while Auckland, by contrast, were seriously handicapped by a litany of errors and seldom posed any questions of the visitors.
The Auckland scrum, anchored by returning All Black prop John Afoa, encountered technical problems which were not ignored by referee Bryce Lawrence as a series of infringements gave Canterbury easy possession.
Too many missed tackles cost Manawatu dearly as Waikato eased away to a 30-22 win in Hamilton. Ahead 12-7 at halftime, Waikato took some time to hit full speed but, once they did, Manawatu were increasingly on the back foot, their defensive screen stretched and too often broken.
Waikato skipper Liam Messam crossed for his side's first try but Manawatu responded with a try of their own from Lote Raikabula. Aaron Cruden's conversion gave Manawatu a 7-5 lead but Waikato bounced back with Sione Lauaki barrelling over from close range. Callum Bruce added the conversion to secure a far-from-convincing 12-7 lead at halftime.
Waikato started strongly in the second spell as Bruce finally found his kicking boots, nailing his first penalty in four attempts to extend Waikato's lead to eight points only for Cruden to reply in kind. The hosts took a firm grip on the game when fly-half Sam Christie crossed under the posts and Bruce's conversion made it 22-10.
Manawatu stretched the Waikato's defence in the final quarter and inevitably it was Cruden who finally broke through to score. The home side restored their advantage with a brilliant Soseni Anesi individual effort as he latched on to a misplaced Doug Tietjens chip kick and ran 40m to score. Replacement fly-half Isaac Thompson crossed in the closing minutes to give Manawatu a chance at the bonus point, but he missed the conversion.
North Harbour, conquerors of defending champions Canterbury last week, were brought back down to earth by a spirited Tasman, who came from behind to win 19-15.
Tasman fullback Robbie Malneek scored the first try of the game with time running out following a break by flanker Daniel Crichton, while up until that stage they had paid for a lack of discipline with Michael Harris kicking five penalties for North Harbour.
Tasman trailed 6-12 at the end of a dour first half, their points coming from penalties by Andrew Goodman and Matty James. North Harbour played much of the half inside Tasman ground but could not find their way to the try-line.
After Malneek's try, Tasman came close to scoring again, but All Black Luke McAlister pulled off a superb tackle on Goodman, dropping the centre just centimetres from the line.
North Harbour simply could not find a way back into the game and Tasman's next try was built on a long passage of forward rushes which was rewarded when reserve prop Tristan Moran crashed over in the corner. A Matty James penalty in the 78th minute sealed a fine win for Tasman.
On Thursday, Northland spoiled All Black flanker Scott Waldrom's return to action by beating Taranaki 29-16 in the opening game of the Air New Zealand Cup's second round at Albany.
Northland fly-half Lachie Munro was the Man of the Match as he scored 24 points from a try, five penalties and two conversions. He also set up centre Derek Carpenter for another try in the second half as Northland got their season going after a 14-19 defeat by Bay of Plenty in last week's first round.
Taranaki's Waldrom, out of action with a back injury for the past two months, took the field in the second half but lasted less than five minute before referee Vinny Munro sent him to the cooler for a high tackle on dangerous Northland winger Rene Ranger.
The game had to be moved to Albany's North Harbour Stadium after Whangarei's Okara Park was deemed unsuitable after poor weather conditions had degraded the turf.
Taranaki needed just one minute in Northland's half to score through a penalty to fly-half Jack Cameron. Cameron added two penalties before centre Willie Rickards set up a try for Jayden Hayward, a big step creating space before he found the scoring pass. Cameron converted and then added another penalty before Munro brought Northland back into the game with brace of penalties to cut Taranaki's lead to one point at halftime, 13-12. Munro turned the tide with his try and conversion 10 minutes into the second half.
Taranaki closed the gap with another Cameron penalty while Waldrom was cooling his heels but the flanker was still absent when Carpenter crossed. Tarankai tried in vain for a bonus-point in the closing minutes but the Northland defence held firm.