Air New Zealand Cup - Round 6 Review
Bay go top after edging out Canterbury
September 6, 2009
BAy of Plenty's Tanerau Latimer celebrates his side's narrow victory over Canterbury © Getty Images
From the sublime to the scratchy, Canterbury were out-passioned 19-17 by Bay of Plenty in their latest Air New Zealand Cup clash at Mount Maunganui.
A week after hoisting the Ranfurly Shield in brilliant style, an error-prone Canterbury side missing most of their All Blacks struggled to crack Bay of Plenty's staunch defence at Baypark Stadiuim. In front of a jubilant crowd, the hosts reclaim the competition lead which they ceded to the Cantabs last week, following a first loss, against Auckland.
They will end the sixth round ahead of Southland on points differential, with competition favourites Canterbury a point back in third after suffering their first loss since week one.
Bay of Plenty proved they are genuine title contenders with a disciplined display which was led from the front by captain and No.8 Colin Bourke. He was a constant handful with his pace and power off the back of the scrum while flanker Tanerau Latimer was a superb deputy with his work at the breakdown.
Canterbury weren't their efficient selves at the tackle, making uncharacteristic mistakes to go with a swag of handling errors that pockmarked their performance. Bay of Plenty were forced to make more than twice as many tackles and their effort was typified after the final hooter when they withstood a Canterbury raid that lasted 17 phases.
As usual, first fly-half Mike Delany was a steady figure and the chief source of points. After missing his first shot, Delany was successful with his next five in a 12-point haul. Both sides scored one try but Delany narrowly won a goalkicking duel with opposite Stephen Brett. Both kicked four penalties but Brett missed the conversion of his team's try, scored by winger James Paterson in the 26th minute.
Down 6-8 at halftime, the hosts lifted their intensity and were rewarded with a try to second five-eighth Phil Burleigh in the 48th minute. Burleigh was part of last year's Canterbury squad but a lack of opportunities saw the son of former long-serving Canterbury back Wayne Burleigh shift north, where he is shining for the leaders.
Canterbury's frustration was summed up by prop Wyatt Crockett's punch to All Blacks squad teammate Latimer, for which he was penalised in a crucial moment late in the fixture. Crockett was part of a strong scrum effort but that was one of the few elements of Canterbury's game that functioned well.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Waikato held off a never-say-die Hawke's Bay for a 30-22 victory at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton - their third win of the season. Ahead 24-0 midway through the first half, and 24-14 at halftime, Waikato had to work hard right to the final whistle for a bruising victory.
The early running was all Waikato's, Henry Speight crossing after just three minutes as quick hands and smooth running from the backline left the winger with room to spare and pace to burn. Waikato, languishing near the bottom of the table after six weeks, played with real commitment, well-marshalled by skipper Liam Messam who had an outstanding game.
Waikato went into the break 24-14 ahead, but the momentum was with Hawke's Bay and they built on that to close the gap further with a Sam Giddens penalty soon after the restart. Two further penalties from Bruce gave Waikato some breathing space, so although Hawke's Bay closed the gap through a Mark Jackman try with five minutes remaining, the home team win was never really in question.
Wellington cast aside the memory of last week's feeble Ranfurly Shield loss to Canterbury with a 62-19 win over Counties Manukau in their clash at Pukekohe on Friday.
Wellington's strength up front and pace out wide proved too much for an injury-stricken Counties Manukau and former All Blacks winger Hosea Gear led the way with a four-try bag.
Counties Manukau were missing 11 players due to injury or illness, and never looked likely to add to their one Air NZ Cup win this season - over Taranaki - two weeks ago. They especially missed captain Tasesa Lavea, out through illness, and international sevens captain, DJ Forbes, still carrying a neck injury.
Wellington had to work for their first try, which didn't come until 15 minutes had gone with just a sole Daniel Kirkpatrick penalty to show. But once Gear crossed for the first of his four tries, bringing his total for the season to eight, the floodgates opened and Wellington racked up 26 points in the next 15 minutes.
Wellington coach Jamie Joseph emptied his bench, Mathew Luamanu and Scott Fuglistaller both making the most of their chances with late tries while Counties Manukau pounded the Wellington line right to the final whistle, it was for no reward.
Tasman maintained their historical hex over Manawatu with a confident 34-15 win in Nelson. A bright performance which matched the conditions at Trafalgar Park saw the hosts run in five tries against a Manawatu side who produced their limpest display of 2009.
Tasman didn't miss injured All Blacks prop Ben Franks, getting on the front foot at scrum time while the No.8 Mark Bright and locks Joe Wheeler and Alex Ainley were star performers in a dominant allround pack display.
Victory was set up by a 17-point burst during a five-minute period in the first half. Fly-half Andrew Goodman kicked a penalty and converted tries to flanker Glen Gregory and centre Afeleke Perenise, both of which were set up by classy buildup work from Bright.
Eighth heading into round six, Tasman's win will see them join Manawatu on a three win-three loss record, with both teams still firmly in the semi-final hunt.
North Harbour's misery continued as the boot of Taranaki fullback Jack Cameron consigned them to a fifth straight loss, 17-13 in New Plymouth. Up 13-5 early in the second half at Yarrow Stadium, Harbour couldn't contain the hosts, who turned with the benefit of a strong breeze at their backs.
Cameron was successful with four-from-four penalty attempts in the 47th, 52nd, 65th and 74th minutes, taking advantage of a massive territorial advantage enjoyed throughout the second spell. Their only other points were an early try to fly-half Willie Ripia before the visitors clamped control for a lengthy period.
Their 13 points, compiled in 25 minutes either side of halftime, comprised two penalties from first fly-half Ben Botica and his conversion of the try by No.9 Chris Smylie, scored via a quick tap from a scrum infringement. The tough Taranaki forwards gained control as the match wore on, proving particularly effective at lineout time and driving around the fringes.
The result leaves Harbour still second-last, with their only win coming against Canterbury in the first round. Their last three losses have been by four, two and three points. Taranaki, who were 10th through five rounds, remain firmly in the play-off hunt following their second arm-wrestle victory.
A last-minute try from replacement hooker Jason Rutledge secured Southland a 15-15 draw against Northland in the opening game of the sixth round. Southland scored three tries to Northland's two, but were left ruing lost opportunities after missing all five place kicks in a match they dominated for long periods.
And in the last game of the weekend, a late assault inspired by two rugby league converts wasn't enough as Otago lost 22-18 to Auckland in Dunedin.
Auckland nearly blew a 22-8 lead midway through the second spell at Carisbrook, conceding a try to winger Ryan Shortland and penalty to another former New Zealand Warriors league player, reserve first five-eighth Michael Witt. However, it wasn't enough for Otago, whose sixth bonus point of the season keeps them in seventh place , one position behind the Aucklanders.
Despite coming second in both the possession and territory counts, Auckland scored three tries to two, boosted by an edge in the set pieces and better finishing. They were also superior at filching ruck ball, forcing seven breakdown turnovers to Otago's none in a surprising statistic considering the comparative experience of the loose forward trios.
Fresh-faced flankers Hamish Paterson and Daniel Faleafa more than held their own against the better-credentialled Alando Soakai and Adam Thomson.