ITM Cup: Round Six
Canterbury make it six on the trot, Auckland too strong for Tasman
September 20, 2015
© Getty Images

Tasman 19-28 Auckland

Auckland's well-organised defence and an uncompromising forward effort set up a hard-earned 28-19 win over Premiership leaders Tasman at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim on Sunday. Auckland's first-half effort with a strong wind at their backs proved key, as they kept previously unbeaten Tasman tryless and scored twice themselves to take a 14-point into the break.

A win looked unlikely early on, however, with Auckland twice denied early tries. Vince Aso was particularly unlucky in missing out after nine minutes when second-five George Moala's beautifully weighted kick behind Tasman's defensive line bounced up nicely for the 20-year-old centre. Replays showed Aso appeared to have forced the ball ahead of Viliami Lolohea's despairing dive, but the try wasn't given.

Half-back Jono Hickey also missed out soon after when he was ruled to have grounded the ball just short of the line as he reached out in the tackle. However, flanker Joe Edwards finally breached the Makos line after 20 minutes, spotting a gap after some smart work with the pick and go to dart 30m and score near the posts.

Two Marty Banks penalties kept Tasman in touch, but Auckland had the final say in the last minute before halftime, just as Tasman were reduced to 14 men when first-five Trent Renata was sin-binned. Moala showed impressive strength in carrying three Makos defenders over the line to score, and Auckland took a useful 20-6 lead into the break.

They added a third try four minutes after the restart, Aso showing impressive speed in chasing down Simon Hickey's stab kick through and beating Tasman halfback Billy Guyton in a desperate dive for the ball. The Makos finally broke through Auckland's well-organised defence after 50 minutes, good work from replacement halfback Jimmy Cowan in clearing the ball quickly at the breakdown rewarded when lock Joe Wheeler reached out in the tackle to score.

The two teams exchanged penalties, but Auckland maintained their nine-point advantage despite being sorely tested in the closing 10 minutes.

Matt Todd has a quick dash down field © Getty Images

North Harbour 10-17 Canterbury

Canterbury continued their winning premiership run with a sixth consecutive victory in beating North Harbour 17-10 in their national provincial championship cross-over match on Sunday. Canterbury eased into second place on the table, their two-try win at North Harbour Stadium in Albany leaving them just two points behind competition leaders Tasman.

Wing Johnny McNicholl opened the scoring for Canterbury after 20 minutes, chasing down second-five Rob Thompson's chip kick to beat Harbour fullback Matt McGahan in the race for the ball. Hooker Ben Funnell crashed over for Canterbury's second try five minutes from half-time, set up by a strong drive from an attacking line-out.

The visitors dominated territory in the first 40 minutes, and while Harbour looked dangerous with the ball in hand, too much of their good work was done inside their own 22. Ahead 14-0 at half-time, Canterbury could add only a sole Tom Taylor penalty to their tally before North Harbour fashioned a late charge with a 74th minute try to winger Tevita Li.

Harbour showed patience in building phases before spinning the ball wide from a solid line-out drive for Li to quick-step his way through the stretched Canterbury defence to score. North Harbour have two wins from seven games, sitting second from bottom on the Championship table but only four points behind third-placed Bay of Plenty.

Northland 17-42 Counties Manukau

Counties Manukau clawed their way off the bottom of the ITM Cup Premiership table after posting five tries in their crossover fixture in slippery conditions at Tool Stadium in Whangarei. The win, only their second in seven matches, edged them into sixth place in the premiership standings, three points clear of Manawatu while winless Northland remain mired at the bottom of the championship standings.

Northland were left a man down in the 15th minute after when lock Josh Goodhue was yellow-carded, and the Steelers capitalised almost immediately when centre Cardiff Vaega slid over in the corner. Skipper Jordan Taufua then crossed twice within 10 minutes as Counties took a 25-12 lead into halftime, with only the reliable boot of first-five Dan Hawkins keeping Northland in touch.

Lock Viliame Rarasea wrapped up the bonus point in the 60th minute after Counties ramped up the pressure with a series of attacking scrums, and Northland's second yellow card of the match left them without half-back Sam Nock.

Northland finally scored their first try of the match with less than 10 minutes remaining, openside flanker Kara Pryor floating a perfectly weighted pass out wide for Wisea Lawbuka to latch onto for the try, but the Steelers iced the victory when winger Frank Halai, crashed through the middle from close range five minutes from full-time.

© Getty Images

Southland 49-14 Manawatu

Southland picked up the second win of their national provincial rugby campaign with a 49-14 crossover victory against premiership strugglers Manawatu in Invercargill on Saturday. The Stags ran in six tries to two in a one-sided win, reversing last year's championship semi-final result when Manawatu beat the southerners 23-18.

Southland hit their straps early, winger Mike Molloy kickstarting the scoring in the eighth minute when he was rewarded for good support play after making the initial break. Manawatu's cover defence, temporarily a man down after fullback Semisi Masirewa limped from the field with a leg injury, just couldn't get the numbers out wide and Molloy was unpressured in diving over.

Openside flanker Tim Boys extended the lead five minutes later, capitalising on a searing break from wing Lolohea Loco down the left. Southland continued to run the ball at any opportunity, but were punished for a lack of accuracy when Manawatu flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis pounced on a loose pass and showed impressive pace in haring 60m for the try.

However Southland finished the half strongly with their own intercept try, centre Kieran Moffat reading the play perfectly as Manawatu tried to run the ball from inside their own 22.

Ahead 22-7 at half-time, Southland's wide game continued to stretch Manawatu, a combination of excellent handling and superb support play setting up the bonus-point try when Willis Halaholo crossed nine minutes after the restart. First five-eighth Lima Sopoaga, who amassed 22 points for Southland, added a fifth and although replacement hooker Rob Foreman powered over for Manawatu's second soon after, the Stags wrapped up the comprehensive win with a final try to fullback Tauasosi Tuimavave.

Hawke's Bay 23 - 17 Bay of Plenty

Hawke's Bay clung on to the Ranfurly Shield with a nerve-wracking 23-17 win over Bay of Plenty at McLean Park in Napier on Saturday. It was the Magpies' 10th successful Shield defence, but they had to work right to the final whistle against an uncompromising Steamers outfit that just wouldn't give up.

Six points behind, and with just two minutes left on the clock, Bay of Plenty mounted a crushing drive from five metres out but Hawke's Bay's discipline and defence held firm. The win also bumps the Magpies back to the top of the second-tier Championship table ahead of Wellington, with five wins from six matches.

Hawke's Bay struggled to maintain control in an absorbing first half, taking a narrow 11-10 lead into the break. Elusive winger Ryan Tongia gave them an early lead after 17 minutes, finishing off a sweeping counterattack in stepping his way through the cover defence to touch down out wide.

Bay of Plenty hit back just before the half-hour mark ticked over, flanker Shahn Eru crashing across after a well-controlled drive from an attacking line-out to give the Steamers a 10-5 lead. A brace of Ihaia West penalties in the five minutes before halftime restored Hawke's Bay's lead, Bay of Plenty punished in the absence of sin-binned flanker Zack Hohneck.

The Shield holders maintained momentum after the restart, loose forward Tom Stanley forcing the ball deep from the middle of a rolling maul just before Hohneck's return. West couldn't nail the conversion, but Tony Lamborn extended Hawke's Bay's lead in the 48th minute when the ball was spun wide after a patient build-up and solid work at the breakdown.

Bay of Plenty hit back in the 52nd minute, young half-back Jono Kitto's quick tap backed up by good work with the pick and go before quick hands gave first five-eighth Nick Evemy the space to score narrow Hawke's Bay's lead to just six.

Ardie Savea is taken down by the Otago defence © Getty Images

Taranaki 41-0 Waikato

Taranaki continued their steady climb up the premiership standings with a clinical five-try 41-0 win over Waikato on Friday in New Plymouth. The bonus-point victory was Taranaki's fourth on end after opening losses to Wellington, Auckland and Otago.

Waikato were punished for a high error count and an aimless kicking game, their inability to build pressure meaning Taranaki looked increasingly comfortable in defence. Waikato's new-look backline never really had a chance to stretch their legs in the first half, Taranaki controlling the opening spell in attacking the advantage line with pace and precision.

Rookie Waikato wing Regan Ware, in for an injured Delan O'Donnell, was denied an apparent try after 12 minutes when the television match official ruled a knock-on from the turnover which sparked the movement. But although Taranaki managed to dominate possession, all they had to show for it after 36 minutes were two Codey Rei penalties.

However, skipper Charlie Ngati finished off Latu Vaeno's superb solo run and centring kick with a well-taken try. Centre Seta Tamanivalu followed up three minutes later, squirrelling over from close range from an attacking lineout drive.

Ahead 20-0 at half-time, Taranaki didn't take long to extend their lead after the restart, prop Angus Ta'avao bulldozing across after good work from No.8 Toa Halafihi and lock Blade Thomson off yet another five-metre scrum. Sean Wainui crossed for the bonus-point try as the hour mark ticked over, finishing off scything runs from Vaeno and Tamanivalu on the counterattack. With barely a minute left on the clock, replacement hooker Hika Elliot powered across from another attacking lineout drive for Taranaki's fifth and final try.

Wellington 36-37 Otago

Wellington's hopes of playing their way back into the premiership division of rugby's national provincial championship took a hit in Thursday's upset loss to Otago. The Lions were beaten 37-36 after Otago scored two tries in the last four minutes, but have suffered another blow with news that captain Brad Shields will be out for the rest of the season after fracturing his jaw in the narrow loss.

Shields underwent surgery on Friday evening, ruling him out for an estimated six weeks. He said it was devastating to know he would no longer be on the field to guide his teammates, but is confident stand-in skipper Ardie Savea can do the job.

"It's never an enjoyable feeling, knowing you're out for a campaign, but I know Ardie will step in and lead the team well," Shields said.

Coach Earl Vaa says Shields will be a big loss, but Wellington was lucky to have a player like Savea to step into the captaincy.

"We've lost a great leader and one of our most consistent players over the past few years, so we're all shattered for Brad. We've still got a job to do though, so we'll move on, get back out there and support Ardie as we look ahead to the remainder of the season."

Wellington lead the second-tier championship competition with three weeks remaining, one point ahead of Hawke's Bay, who have a game in hand.

Tasman's Viliami Lolohea makes a break, ITM Cup, Tasman Makos v North Harbour, Trafalgar Park, Nelson, September 16, 2015
Tasman's Viliami Lolohea makes a break © Getty Images

Tasman 39-20 North Harbour

Viliami Lolohea grabbed a hat-trick as Tasman maintained their 100% start to the ITM Cup season, posting six tries to two in the crossover fixture as they took their record to 6-0 with a bonus point from each match.

Tasman dominated the opening exchanges, camping inside opposition territory, and Harbour first ventured across the halfway line only when they kicked off in the 14th minute having conceded the opening try to veteran half-back Jimmy Cowan.

Lolohea produced slick footwork to extend the lead before the visitors fought back, Harbour winger Nafi Tuitavake capping 15-phase move and Daniel Halangahu adding the extras as well as two penalties.

Tasman pulled away in the second spell after leading by just one point at half-time, with Marty Banks posting a brilliant individual try with a 65-metre run and Lolohea completing his hat-trick by wrestling the ball off opposite Tevita Li.

Mitchell Scott then scored as the Makos raced to a 36-13 advantage before Harbour, who sit fourth in the second-tier Championship, posted the final try of the night when Michael Little breaking away to dot down.


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