New Zealand Cup
Counties comeback to secure second win
September 21, 2008
Koitau Koiatu dives in to score for Hawke's Bay
© Getty Images
Counties Manukau released their grip on provincial rugby's wooden spoon, defeating fellow-strugglers Manawatu 27-14 at Pukekohe today to record their first victory since an opening round upset of Auckland.
The Steelers overhauled a 14-point first half deficit, coming to life late in the first spell at Growers Stadium before winning a low quality eighth-round clash with comparative ease.
Their maximum five-point haul enabled Counties to climb from the foot of the table, doubling their tally to 10 -- two clear of Manawatu and Northland, who travel to North Harbour tomorrow.
Counties captain Tasesa Lavea helped complete the morale-boosting comeback, scoring the try that finally pushed his team in front in the final quarter.
The first five-eighth's astute tactical kicking also kept a faltering Manawatu pegged back while for good measure he added a last minute dropped goal to complete an unanswered 27-point burst.
Before Lavea rose to prominence, both sides relied on their sevens stars for rare touches of class.
Counties' Cook Islands representative Koiatu Koiatu scored a brace for the home side, as an error-prone Steelers sides ultimately found some cohesiveness.
The fullback bounced back from a 26th minute setback, when his chip kick was smartly anticipated by New Zealand sevens star Lote Raikabula, who skipped behind the posts to give Manawatu a two-try buffer.
However, Koiatu atoned after New Zealand's sevens captain DJ Forbes produced a telling burst to raise Counties' spirits late in a opening half where they barely threatened.
Forbes brushed off two defenders before being halted on the line; Manawatu skipper Josh Bradknock almost snaffled a turnover but the flanker lost the ball forward for Koiatu to collect and dive over.
The try invigorated the Steelers, signalling a momentum shift despite Dean Cummins' abysmal goalkicking form.
The second five-eighth missed a handy injury time penalty and then pushed two other three-point attempts -- and a conversion of Koiatu's 41st minute try -- wide before Lavea's angled run to the corner after interplay with prop Simon Leamalu gave Counties the lead.
Cummins missed his fifth of six attempts but Counties retained enough composure -- and faith in their policy of launching bombs into Manawatu territory -- to take control.
Centre Siale Piatau also barrelled over in the left hand corner with four minutes remaining to seal victory.
Manawatu scored in the sixth minute though first five-eighth Isaac Thompson while Raikabula's anticipation and try loomed as a hammer blow for the home side.
Result of the Air NZ Cup eighth round provincial rugby match between Counties-Manukau and Manawatu at Growers Stadium in Pukekohe today:
Counties Manukau 27 (Koiatu Koiatu 2, Tasesa Lavea, Siale Piatau tries; Lavea dropped goal; Dean Cummins con, Tanner Vili con) Manawatu 14 (Isaac Thompson, Lote Raikabula tries; Thompson 2 con). Halftime: 7-14