ITM Cup - Round 2 Review
Counties Manukau make it two from two
August 8, 2010
Taranaki's Jarrad Hoeata scores against Tasman © Getty Images
Counties-Manukau showed last week's upset win over Otago in the ITM Cup was no fluke by dominating Wellington for a 31-25 win in the capital on Sunday.
Counties-Manukau took the game to a peculiarly listless Wellington in the first spell, playing with real intensity to totally dominate the home team and lead 23-3 at half-time. Although Wellington came out in the second spell with more focus, Counties-Manukau proved equal to the task and held off a late Wellington surge to record their second win in as many games.
With Counties-Manukau player-coach Tana Umaga standing down ahead of next weekend's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Southland, Reynold Lee-Lo pulled on the No.12 jersey and took over the tryscoring responsibilities as well. He sidestepped his way to the line in the 14th minute, converting Counties-Manukau's possession and territorial domination into points on the board. Fly-half Baden Kerr converted, and the visitors continued to dominate, extending their lead in the 20th minute when winger Ahsee Tuala latched on to an ill-timed pass from Wellington fullback Apoua Stewart. Tuala sprinted away for his third try in two games, Kerr added the extras and Wellington were looking shaky at 0-14 down with three-quarters of the game still to run.
Referee Shaun Elliott twice referred tryscoring decisions to the third match official, and twice Counties-Manukau were denied, as they continued to pound the Wellington line. Wellington's sole points came from a 28th minute penalty, and although they finally managed some field position in the closing minutes of the first half, the Counties-Manukau defence held strong.
The second half saw Wellington up the intensity, but the well-drilled Counties-Manukau defence swarmed to cover every move until the 60th minute. Wellington forced the turnover on their own 22, and launched a telling counter-attack, second five-eighth Sean Treeby breaking clear down the middle before offloading for Hosea Gear to score.
Treeby himself crossed two minutes later to further narrow the gap, but Tuala redeemed himself for an earlier knock-on with a try after Counties-Manukau moved the ball wide from a turnover. Wellington had the last say with two minutes to go, Charlie Ngatai crashing over and the conversion secured Wellington a bonus point.
Waikato snatched a stunning 21-18 win over Auckland 50 seconds after the final siren on Saturday. Waikato kept their composure and discipline in the final minutes, their forwards earning field position deep in the Auckland 22 before the ball was flung wide for hard-working wing Dwayne Sweeney to score in the left-hand corner at Eden Park in Auckland.
Little separated the teams on the scoreboard or the field in rainy conditions. It appeared Auckland had done enough for victory once No.8 Peter Saili found space to score a try four minutes after halftime on the back of a 30-phase build-up to give Auckland an 18-13 advantage, but a Trent Renata penalty narrowed the margin before Sweeney's match-winner.
Waikato had to wait all of 28 seconds for their first points, courtesy of a Renata penalty after the hosts coughed up possession from the kick-off then infringed at a ruck. Renata and opposing fly-half Mathew Berquist traded penalties before Waikato went ahead in the 24th minute when fullback Sosene Anesi capped a counter-attack launched by Sweeney back on his 22.
Renata's conversion gave Waikato a seven-point buffer but that was erased in the 33rd minute when Auckland flanker Onosa'i Auva'a scored in the left-hand corner after Berquist broke into the 22 then positioned himself for the recycled ball to provide the last pass to Auva'a.
On Thursday, reigning champions Canterbury notched their first win of the ITM Cup season in Palmerston North on Thursday, but in truth they robbed a feisty Manawatu side of the spoils by sneaking one 27-26.
It had looked so promising for Manawatu. Playing with organisation and flair, they had made the defending champions look like a rabble as they rammed four tries home in the first 44 minutes.
First five-eighth Tomasi Cama was Manawatu's star, pulling the strings in midfield to set up the opening try for fellow New Zealand Sevens star Lote Raikabula after just six minutes and later scoring one himself. Canterbury replied quickly through fullback Sean Maitland but a Manawatu pack ably led by skipper Nick Croswell then put an armlock on the forwards battle to crack an opening for Raikabula to surge through and grab his second try.
Cama then produced the try of the night. The ball was freed to him after another forward surge and he threaded the ball through the defence with a neat kick before pouncing on the off-breaking ball to dot down with Maitland going the wrong way.
A Shannon Paku midfield burst broke the Canterbury defence and Casey Stone took his offload at speed and comfortably beat the cover for a bonus-point.Canterbury recovered their poise to run in two scrappy tries to centre Robbie Fruean and another to wing Telusa Veainu, putting their challenge back on track after opening with a 23-23 draw against Hawke's Bay.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Southland provided the precision and challengers Otago the passion as the former retained rugby's Ranfurly Shield 16-12 in Invercargill. Southland's brief shield tenure lifted a notch after easy defences over Heartland sides North Otago and Wanganui as Otago played themselves to a standstill only to come up short yet again.
Otago last held the shield in 1957, and a half-century of angst and frustration was extended by another unsuccessful tilt today as they came out on the wrong side of a heavy penalty count. Referee Jonathon White seemingly had eyes only for Otago as the challengers were pulled up constantly for infringements at the breakdown and they had to make do with 14 men for 20 minutes after having two players sent to the sinbin.
Southland, though, were highly organised and composed in the face of fierce pressure from the Otago forwards, with loosies Eben Joubert, Alando Soakai and Adam Thomson crashing and bashing their way around the fringes without ever slicing open the home side's brick wall defence. The result gave Southland their second national provincial championship success of the season, a deserved outcome after they stepped up a gear in the final quarter to edge ahead and then stay in front.
Captain and prop Jamie Mackintosh provided the match-deciding try in the 66th minute when Otago found themselves a man down for the second time after prop Sam Hibbard was sinbinned for being offside at a ruck on his own line. Southland took the chance to make their numerical superiority count, driving to the line on three occasions before Mackintosh burrowed his way over. Young first five-eighth James Wilson calmly slotted the wide angled conversion and Southland were then left to defend a four-point lead, which they did with some aplomb.
Otago had nothing more to give at that point, having exhausted themselves with a high octane, take no prisoners approach throughout the match. But they could not unlock Southland's defence and linebreaks were few and far between as Otago had to make do with three penalties and a dropped goal to first five-eighth Glenn Dickson for their points.
Bay of Plenty made a mockery of pre-match predictions when they trounced last year's semi-finalists Hawke's Bay 30-11 to pick up their first win of the season on Friday. They had learned their lessons well from last week's 10-13 loss to Waikato, taking a no-nonsense approach into this game. Halfback Taniela Moa had a powerful game from behind his forwards and deservedly scored the only try of the first half. The sides exchanged penalty goals in the first 11 minutes with Andrew Horrell landing the first for Hawke's Bay and Daniel Waenga replying for Bay of Plenty.
The Steamers scored early in the second half after fullback Toby Arnold and wing Lance MacDonald combined in a searing counter-attack to carry the ball deep into Hawke's Bay's 22 before MacDonald transferred the ball to Lelia Masaga who was unopposed as he dotted down.
After a long spell of pressure was wasted, Hawke's Bay had hardly worked out what went wrong before Bay of Plenty hammered another two tries home in quick succession, the first to valiant skipper Colin Bourke with the second by substitute back Chad Tuoro. Hawke's Bay scored a consolation try on the final hooter through wing Richard Buckman after fellow winger Zac Guildford finally broke his shackles with an enterprising run.
Taranaki showed what the pre-season talk was all about by whipping Tasman 33-11 in New Plymouth on Friday. Following a disappointing opening loss at home to Northland last weekend, the home side bounced back with a dominant five tries-to-one performance in slippery conditions. The result means Tasman remain point-less after losing 20-11 in Wellington a week ago.
They scored the first and last points but Taranaki dominated the middle stages, snaring a bonus point soon after halftime when a slick backline move gave winger David Smith space to dash over in the left corner. Their first try went to Kurt Baker off a short pass by second five-eighth Jayden Hayward, followed by Hurricanes scrum-half Tyson Keats crossing after Tasman spilled a high kick, a problem that dogged them all night.
Flanker Jarrad Hoeata, arguably the best forward on show, then charged down the blindside to give his team a 21-6 halftime advantage. Errors crept into the match in the second half but it finished in a flurry when Tasman reserve hooker Vernon Fredericks and Taranaki's George Pisi crossed. Flanker Scott Waldrom returned to Taranaki action from a thumb injury but marred his game with a late sin-binning for repeated offending.
Elsewhere on Sunday, North Harbour held their nerve to scrape home 25-24 over Northland at Whangarei. Replacement fly-half Ben Botica sealed the win with a 24m dropped goal in the 83rd minute after North Harbour recycled the ball through 20 phases. It capped a remarkable fightback from North Harbour who trailed 6-21 in the 33rd minute after conceding three tries.
They emerged victorious despite scoring only one themselves and got home on the accuracy of their goalkickers, with Botica also landing two penalties and Mike Harris, the man he replaced, succeeding with three penalties and a conversion. It was a cruel ending for Northland, who were the better side for long periods before North Harbour upped their intensity in the closing quarter.