ITM Cup: Round Seven
Taranaki end Canterbury's winning streak
September 27, 2015
Taranaki secured a place in the Premiership play-offs after taking down the unbeaten Canterbury © Getty Images
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Canterbury 21-24 Taranaki

Defending champions Taranaki wrapped up a spot in the Premiership play-offs with a bruising 24-21 win over Canterbury at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Sunday. Previously unbeaten, Canterbury were fronting up for their third game in seven days, and were outplayed three tries to two as Taranaki consolidated fourth spot on the table.

The win edges Taranaki 10 points clear of fifth-placed Counties Manukau with only two games remaining until the semi-finals, while Canterbury still sit top of the table on 33 points. Taranaki signalled their intentions with a helter-skelter first half, jumping out to a 10-0 lead after just four minutes.

First five-eighth Codey Rei's early penalty was followed by a well-taken try to flanker Berny Hall which featured impressive patience and slick passing skills from the forwards out wide. Canterbury didn't take long to work their way back, levelling the scores after 15 minutes through a Tom Taylor penalty and Johnny McNicholl's fifth try of the season.

Maori All Blacks and sevens star Kurt Baker reclaimed the lead for Taranaki five minutes later, finding space courtesy of a magic off-load from 20-year-old halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi. Taylor's 36th minute penalty narrowed Taranaki's lead to 17-13 at halftime, but the margin wasn't as much as it could have been, given Taranaki's domination of possession and territory.

Their work at the breakdown was first rate, and with Canterbury falling off their tackles, the lead could have easily been more. Both teams continued their up-tempo approach in the second spell, prop Angus Ta'avao setting up Blade Thomson for Taranaki's third try six minutes after the restart only for Canterbury to reply almost immediately through Marshall Suckling.

Ahead 24-21 after 49 minutes, Taranaki showed huge heart to defend their lead for the next half hour, holding on for their first win in over 50 years against Canterbury in Christchurch.

Waikato 14-21 Wellington

Wellington kept their promotion hopes alive with a hard-earned 21-14 win over Premiership strugglers Waikato in a provincial rugby championship cross-over match in Hamilton. The victory is Wellington's fifth of the season, and consolidates second place on the second-tier Championship standings, three points behind leaders Hawke's Bay.

Waikato picked up an invaluable bonus point to leave them sixth of seven teams, two points ahead of bottom-placed Manawatu. Both teams went into Sunday's match at Waikato Stadium off back-to-back losses, Waikato fronting up after defeats by Taranaki and Canterbury while Wellington had been downed by Otago and Tasman.

Damian McKenzie's ever-reliable right boot gave Waikato an early lead, the 20-year-old first five-eighth sinking two penalties, including one massive 55m effort. But Wellington's Jason Woodward, starting at fullback in Cory Jane's absence with a shoulder injury, was also on target in nailing three first-half penalties.

Lions lock Jeremy Thrush galloped 25m for the only try of the spell, holding a good line off Reggie Goodes as the loosehead prop broke the advantage line and off-loaded with immaculate timing.

Ahead 16-6 at halftime, Wellington were slow to regain momentum after the restart, but giant flanker Vaea Fifita set up their second try when he snaffled the turnover and set off on a 40m run which ended five metres short of the line.

Hooker Leni Apasi was on hand to take the final pass, powering over to give Wellington a 21-6 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining. Waikato finally hit back in the 65th minute, Chauncy Edwardson finishing off a slick move from an attacking midfield scrum which stretched Wellington's defence to snapping point out wide.

Still trailing by 10, Waikato continued to pressure but could only manage a stoppage time penalty to scramble a bonus point for finishing within seven.

Manawatu 31-17 North Harbour

Manawatu posted four tries against North Harbour to boost their battle against relegation back to the ITM Cup Championship, the Turbos scoring 24 points without reply to secure just their second win of the season after trailing 17-7 early in the second half at Arena Manawatu in Palmerston North.

North Harbour kicked into life on attack only 10 minutes before half-time and full-back Josh Rowland scored a try from a move from a five-metre scrum, after spending much of the stanza defending, and they went to the break with a 10-7 lead after Manawatu reduced the deficit four minutes before oranges. Tom Parsons wrestled the ball from Harbour prop Sione Mafileo to spark a counter-attack, and the Turbos showed impressive patience in building phases before lock Fraser Stone muscled his way over for a score converted by Otere Black.

The game continued to loosen in the second spell, and McGahan dived over between the posts eight minutes after the restart to extend Harbour's lead. But Manawatu hit back sharply, with skipper Callum Gibbins and winger Newton Tudreu crossing within six minutes and Black kicking a 62nd minute penalty to give the Turbos a 24-17 lead. Manawatu continued to control possession, and they iced the match when Gibbins crossed for the bonus-point try in the 79th minute.

Liam Coltman of Otago celebrates his try with team-mates © Getty Images
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Otago 61-7 Southland

Otago claimed a record-breaking victory over their South Island neighbours at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday, the Razorbacks posting eight tries as they recorded the biggest winning margin in 239 fixtures between the teams.

Otago were on top almost from the opening whistle, full-back Michael Collins touching down within three minutes after the Stags' Lima Sopoaga's kick-off failing to go 10 metres. Otago No.8 Naulia Dawai dropped the ensuing restart and the Stags' Willis Halaholo crossed almost immediately, but that was as close as Southland would get.

Otago hooker Liam Coltman sprinted 22 metres for a fine try from a lineout, Peter Breen landed a drop goal and a penalty, and Otago led 20-7 in 22 minutes before Southland captain Jamie Mackintosh was sent off for striking Hisa Sasagi. James Lentjes, Teihorangi Walden and Breen then posted five-pointers as Southland fractured, and the Razorbacks led 39-7 at half-time.

Southland improved in the second half, but basic mistakes cruelled their hopes and Otago scored three more tries, through Josh Renton, Jayden Spence and Matt Faddes, after absorbing the pressure.

Sikeli Nabou crashes over for a try © Getty Images
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Counties Manukau 42-33 Tasman

Counties Manukau racked up their third win of the season with a free-running five-try 42-33 win over Tasman in Pukekohe on Saturday. For the second match in a row, the Steelers topped 40 points, backing up last week's 42-17 win over Championship minnows Northland.

The win edges them well clear of the battle to avoid relegation, leaving Manawatu in an increasingly precarious position at the bottom of the Premiership ladder with one win and nine points. Coming off last week's 19-28 loss to Auckland, Tasman were all business in the opening 20 minutes.

Marty Banks knocked over a couple of early penalties before Kieron Fonotia scythed through a gaping hole in Tasman's defence, a well-worked set phase try from a solid attacking scrum giving the visitors an encouraging 13-3 lead. But two yellow cards in quick succession soon after let Counties Manukau back in the match.

Tasman second five-eighth David Havili was the first to go, pinged for a lifting tackle, with Robbie Malneek following minutes later after not rolling clear at the breakdown. With Tasman down to 13 men, it didn't take long for halfback Richard Judd to find the space to dart across for Counties' first try, with Piers Francis adding the extras to reduce Tasman's lead to just two.

A mesmerising break from fullback Toni Pulu set up Counties' second, with second five-eighth Cardiff Vaega finishing off in style to give the Steelers an 18-13 lead which was extended by a 40th minute penalty to 21-13 at halftime.

Tasman started the second half with intent, Banks skittering through Counties' disorganised defence after barely four minutes to cut the gap to just one. But Counties continued to run the ball with freedom, replacement loosie Sikeli Nabou and Pele Cowley both crossing to give the home team a 35-26 lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Onosa'i Auva'a powered over in the corner for the Steelers' fifth try at the 70 minute mark, and although replacement half-back Billy Guyton darted across for Tasman's third barely a minute later, Counties looked confident in controlling the final stages.

Northland 5-37 Bay of Plenty

Bay of Plenty routed winless Northland in their ITM Cup at Toll Stadium in Whangere on Fridayi, the Steamers posting four second-half tries to claim a bonus point after leading by just three penalties at half-time.

The Steamers extended their advantage when Elijah Nicolas scored the first try of the match, just a minute into the second stanza, before Dan Hawkins crossed to give hope to the hosts and the visitors lost Jono Kitto to the sin-bin.

Northlands's hopes extinguished as quickly as they had been raised when the Steamers were awarded a penalty try before Lalakai Foketi and Keepa Mewett, on the final play of the game, secured the bonus points for the visitors.

Tom Stanley shed blood for Hawke's Bay's cause © Getty Images
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Hawke's Bay 17-12 Auckland

Hawke's Bay hung on to the Ranfurly Shield with a gutsy victory at McLean Park in Napier, posting a try in each half before producing outstanding defence to deny Auckland in the closing five minutes. The visitors, meanwhile, were their own worst enemy as they coughed up possession with handling errors while hunting the match-winning try.

Auckland captain Simon Hickey landed three first-half penalties before relentless Hawke's Bay pressure finally took its toll four minutes before half-time. Winger Richard Buckman made the initial break and the Magpies showed commendable patience in working their way through 23 phases before No.8 and skipper Brendon O'Connor muscled over. Ihaia West slotted the conversion and Hawke's Bay looked set to go into the break with a narrow lead, but Hickey struck again from 40 metres and Auckland went to the sheds leading 12-10.

The Magpies posted their second try midway through the second stanza after West had missed an optimistic 50-metre penalty; the kick was close enough to force indecision between Auckland halfback Jono Hickey and Bryce Heem, and the winger fumbled in-goal to gift Hawke's Bay a five-metre scrum. The Magpies' forwards kept the ball tight and again pounding Auckland's line until the gap opened up for West to slice through for the try.

The conversion gave Hawke's Bay a 17-12 lead with 14 minutes remaining, and they had to work right to the end.

An 81st-minute penalty gave Auckland their best chance with an attacking lineout five metres out, but the throw wasn't straight and Hawke's Bay hung on for their 11th successful Shield defence.

Canterbury's Johnny McNicholl shows his delight as Matt Todd drives over for a try © Getty Images
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Canterbury 18-17 Waikato

Canterbury have claimed top spot on the ITM Cup Premiership ladder, from Tasman, after defeating Waikato with two late tries at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Wednesday.

Waikato, coming off a 41-0 pounding by Taranaki, looked a different team as they dominated the first half with a solid scrum and quick work at the breakdown. They weren't afraid to run the ball in the slippery conditions, and they were rewarded with two slick tries, the first coming after just seven minutes.

Brad Weber made a half-break 70 metres out, combining with wing Dylan Collier to put Anton Lienert-Brown into space. The New Zealand Under-20 rep sliced through Canterbury's defensive line before unloading for fullback Shaun Stevenson to score the simplest of tries. Canterbury battled hard for territory but scored only a Tom Taylor penalty before Waikato struck again 10 minutes before half-time, when Damien McKenzie stepped past three defenders to touch down and give the visitors a 14-3 lead at the break.

The game changed when Waikato prop Ben Tameifuna's was sin-binned for a punch after 60 minutes, with Canterbury capitalising on their man advantage within two minutes. The hosts controlled the ball at the back of an attacking scrum before replacement hooker Ben Funnell bulldozed across in his 50th match for the province to narrow Waikato's lead to four. Matt Todd then gave Canterbury the lead for the first time when he drove across from an attacking line-out to put the home team ahead 15-14.

McKenzie dropped a goal, but Taylor kicked a penalty three minutes from full-time to secure the win.

© AAP

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