New Zealand Cup
Counties comeback to secure second win
September 21, 2008
Date/Time: Sep 20, 2008, 14:30 local, 02:30 GMT
Counties Manukau 27 - 14 Manawatu
Koitau Koiatu of the Steelers dives in to score a try in the tackle Kurt Baker of Manawatu during the Air New Zealand Cup rugby match between Manawatu and Counties at Growers Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Pukekohe, New Zealand.
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

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