New Zealand Cup
Taranaki snatch draw with Counties
September 26, 2008
Taranaki's Ace Male snatched a late try as his side grabbed a share of the spoils
© Getty Images
Taranaki scored a last-minute converted try to keep their hopes of an Air NZ Cup rugby championship playoff spot alive after escaping with a 13-13 draw against Counties Manukau in New Plymouth tonight.
Taranaki fullback Ace Malo denied Counties Manukau a deserved victory when he tumbled and spun his way to dot down in the corner after the hooter had gone to take the score to 11-13. First five eighth Willie Ripia made the conversion from the wide angle to tie the game.
Taranaki's two points tonight took them to 21 after nine rounds and it opened the door slightly for teams such as Waikato who beat Otago 39-10 in Hamilton tonight, Auckland and Tasman to nudge past with one round to go. Taranaki play Waikato in their final preliminary round match and with 23 points being last year's benchmark to make the top eight, they would need at least two points from that game.
Taranaki trailed a surprisingly resilient Counties Manukau side whose defence held out for 80 minutes before breaking. Taranaki looked nothing like the side who had beaten Otago 31-27 in the previous round which had put them sixth in the standings.
They were the architects of their own troubles, dropping the ball at crucial times, twice when they had the line at their mercy after they had taken an early 3-0 lead to a penalty by Ripia. Counties Manukau, searching for just their third win of the season after beating Manawatu last week, fed off the crumbs they got to take a 10-3 lead at halftime through a penalty to Dean Cummins and a try crafted by first five eighth Tasesa Lavea for No 8 Fritz Lee.
Ripia kicked another penalty in the second half to close the gap but Cummins got up from a head high tackle by Taranaki No 8 Taiasina Tuifua to knock over the resultant penalty and restore the seven-point lead his side held. Taranaki desperately pounded away at the Counties Manukau defence with substitute halfback Brendan Haami calling the shots.
In quick succession, second five Jayden Hayward was denied a try when his right arm grazed the sideline chalk as he dived for the try-line and then winger Paul Perez was bundled into touch with a valiant try-saving tackle by fullback Tanner Vili. It seemed Counties Manukau had done enough but then up popped Malo to make amends for dropping a pass earlier with a try begging to be scored.
Result of an Air NZ Cup rugby match played at New Plymouth tonight:
Counties Manukau 13 (Fritz Lee try, Dean Cummins 2 pen, con), Taranaki 13 (Ace Malo try; Willie Ripia 2 pen, con). Halftime: 10-3