Bunnings NPC: Round 4 Review
Defending Bunnings Warehouse champions Wellington are the only unbeaten team in the competition after securing a 36-31 win over arch-rival Canterbury in Christchurch on Sunday.
That followed their successful midweek Ranfurly Shield defence against Tasman where they won 7-0.
Taranaki, despite their first loss - a 26-29 loss to Bay of Plenty, are in second while Hawke's Bay is one point clear of Canterbury which has played one game less.
Tasman put their weekend woes behind them to mount a strong challenge, but Ranfurly Shield holders Wellington held them out; Tasman's best scoring chance, a penalty goal, hit the post and rebounded back into play. Wellington took its chance with a long penalty kick to the corner, creating a chance to unleash a rolling maul, and it was hooker James O'Reilly who controlled it after locking Dominic Bird's lineout take to score what was the game's only try.
Tasman put plenty of pressure on Wellington in the second half, but mistakes at critical moments undid much of their best work. At the same time, Wellington's defence was up for the test with replacement loose forward Dominic Ropeti tidying up after second five-eighths Levi Aumua's centre kick created prospects in the goal mouth. Tasman also missed another penalty goal when wing Macca Springer could not convert.
Wellington 7 (James O'Reilly try; Aidan Morgan con) Tasman 0. HT: 7-0
Manawatū set their store from the kick-off, running the ball from their 22m and gaining 60 metres. The man who gave the initial boost, blindside flanker TK Howden, opened the scoring with their first try on the back of more running play. A penalty try was next, it was scored with first five-eighths Rivez Reihana in the sin-bin and hooker Matt Moulds joining him after the penalty try infringement. Hooker Leif Keil-Schwencke extended the lead from a rolling maul. Northland came back after No8 Matt Matich took a gap out wide to feed Moulds over. That was followed almost immediately by a try for halfback Lisati Milo-Harris after a cutting backline entry by fullback Josh Moorby. Keil-Schwenke repeated the lineout maul dose on halftime for Manawatū to lead 26-17.
Moorby almost created an electric chance for wing Heremaia Murray, but home fullback Beaudein Waaka pulled him down. However, in the 66th minute, he was in the line again, inter-passing with Brady Rush to take a return pass to score for Northland to take the lead with replacement Dan Murray's conversion. Hawkins landed a penalty goal with seven minutes left, but a well-won counter ruck provided the chance for Manawatu 70m out, and they took it. Racing downfield, Waaka had second five-eighths Kyle Brown inside. Brown took the ball into the 22m, and when it was swung, captain and No8 Brayden Iose dived over for the winning try to break their two-year winning drought.
Manawatū 31 (TK Howden, Leif Keil-Schwencke 2, Brayden Iose tries; Penalty try; Brett Cameron 2 con) Northland 30 (Matt Moulds, Lisati Milo-Harris, Josh Moorby tries; Rivez Reihana 2 con, 2 pen; Dan Hawkins con, pen). HT: 26-17
Auckland showed the value of forward power to open the scoring with a rolling maul try to hooker Soane Vikena while their second showed how important consistent back play can be as they worked the ball left and right to put centre Corey Evans over. Hawke's Bay was not without set-piece value, and first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie scored after a midfield break from a scrum by halfback Folau Fakatava and support work by No8 Devan Flanders to pin Auckland back. Then they employed their lineout variation with lock Tom Parsons, in his 100th game, going one way then the other beneath the bar to score and level the scores.
Lock Josh Beehre got Auckland back in front within two minutes of the restart, but when Evans unleashed a ball to fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 50m out, he stepped either way and then sped through a gap to score a superb try. Soon after, a pushover scrum saw No8 Akira Ioane over before the Bay's final response produced a try on debut by hooker Hisamitsu Shimada who took a short ball and raced 30 metres to head the defence. But Auckland had the final say when wing AJ Lam pulled off an intercept to race 35m to score.
Auckland 41 (Soane Vikena, Corey Evans, Josh Beehre, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Akira Ioane, AJ Lam tries; Zarn Sullivan 3 con, pen; Jock McKenzie con) Hawke's Bay 22 (Lincoln McClutchie, Tom Parsons, Hisamitsu Shimada tries; McClutchie con, pen; Harry Godfrey con). HT: 15-15
All Blacks Sevens player Ngarohi McGarvey-Black rewarded consistent Bay of Plenty forward play by opening the scoring when taking a long ball from first five-eighths Lucas Cashmore. But Taranaki responded, and when the ball was released, first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta came from depth at speed to slice through to score. Bay captain and hooker Kurt Eklund went over on the back of a driving maul. Five minutes later, in the 26th minute, they extended their lead when halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi had a change of mind at a ruck, and returning to the blindside, he lofted a long ball to McGarvey-Black, who shook off three home defenders to score. Then wing Kini Naholo joined the line from a lineout on halfway, raced into a gap, and stepped to space to cross. Five minutes before halftime, another Naholo break from a lineout took play to the line where second five-eighths Tei Walden picked up the ball and scored to leave a halftime tie of 19-19.
Bay of Plenty made a decisive move in the second half when, despite untidy play inside, the ball reached Leroy Carter on the right wing. He chipped ahead and raced through to maximise a favourable bounce and score. With 90 seconds left, Cashmore landed a penalty goal to put a draw and golden point beyond Taranaki's reach. That was just as well, as from a lineout flanker, Pita Gus Sowakula charged to the Bay line, and replacement prop Michael Bent drove over to ensure a loser's bonus point, at least for Taranaki.
Taranaki 26 (Stephen Perofeta, Kini Naholo, Tei Walden, Michael Bent tries; Perofeta 3 con) Bay of Plenty 29 (Ngarohi McGarvey-Black 2, Kurt Eklund, Leroy Carter tries; Lucas Cashmore 3 con, pen). HT: 19-19
Wing Jona Nareki's incision from the left flank created a chance, albeit almost intercepted, but controlled by fullback Finn Hurley, who passed for wing Josh Whaanga to open the scoring with a try. Lock Josh Dickson extended the lead at the third pick-and-go from a lineout drive to power across for the try. Southland responded at the quarter mark from a scrum that saw wing Michael Manson bust his way through the defence to score. A long lineout throw fell to flanker Leroy Ferguson, who charged towards the line and passed inside to second five-eighths Scott Gregory, who scored. But Otago poured on the pressure, and Dickson scored his second try from yet another pick-and-go. Nareki made Southland pay for a knock-on when kicking ahead, and having first five-eighths, Ajay Faleafaga won the contest to secure the ball for the try.
It was just as well because while up 26-14 at the turn, Otago found themselves on the end of determined Southland play in the second half. Second five-eighths Matt Whaanga opened the response with a 46th-minute try. Southland tried everything to get closer but couldn't put anything on the scoreboard. Otago had the final say with a 64th-minute try to Hurley, courtesy of a generous in-pass from Nareki, leaving Southland without a point for their endeavours.
Otago 31 (Josh Whaanga, Josh Dickson 2, Ajay Faleafaga, Finn Hurley tries; Hurley 3 con) Southland 21 (Michael Manson, Scott Gregory, Matt Whaanga tries, Dan Hollinshead 3 con). HT: 26-14
Goal-kickers had a miserable day in Nelson, with the result being determined solely by tries. Tasman made the first impact at Trafalgar Park when a lineout drive produced the opening try for hooker Feleti Kautu'u. North Harbour went to work through their pack with 18 phases building up to prop Tevita Mafileo's scoring to level the scores. They followed that with halfback Jamie Booth linking on the blindside with fullback Shaun Stevenson. He passed inside, where first five-eighths Oscar Koller showed his speed to run in for his first try for the side.
Five minutes into the second half, Tasman struck back when first five-eighths Tom Marshall made a break, giving Macca Springer a chance to put his speed to use to level the scores. But North Harbour unleashed a 13-phase effort, which saw Booth fling a long pass to second five-eighths Henry Taefu perfectly placed to take and score. Tasman had a try ruled out for obstruction but was soon back in position with wing Timoci Tavatavanawai running back on an angle to pierce a gap that levelled the scores. Golden point time was required, and again, Tavatavanawai crossed after Springer broke the Harbour defensive line to give him his chance.
Tasman 20 (Feleti Kaitu'u, Mac Springer, Timoci Tavatavanawai 2 tries) North Harbour 15 (Tevita Mafileo, Oscar Koller, Henry Taefu tries). HT: 5-10. FT: 15-15
Wellington hooker Josh Southall emerged from a rolling maul and was dragged down short of the goal line, and while the pack looked to move closer to the posts, he stayed closer to the sideline and had the reward when the ball emerged to score the opening try. Wing Blair Murray responded after Canterbury worked their lineout ball to fling it wide for his try. Clever passing under pressure saw wing Losilosivale Filipo grab one more for Wellington. Then, centre Peter Umaga-Jensen emerged from a breakdown and swerved a path through the defence to score.
Up 19-5 at the turn, Wellington faced a second-half comeback from Canterbury. The first try was from Murray kicking on a grubber kick from centre Dallas McLeod to win the race. No8 Cullen Grace had too much weigh on from a five-metre scrum to score the second. Wellington flanker Sione Halalilo staunched the home momentum when getting a TMO call that he grounded the ball. Wellington's five-eighths replacement Aidan Morgan and Filipo broke on the right flank, but Morgan looked inside where halfback Kyle Preston was better placed to run in closer to the posts. But McLeod got Canterbury back in touch with another long pass that Murray snaffled to cut back against the tide to complete a hat-trick of tries. Tied at 31-31 with 10 minutes left, Wellington had Umaga-Jensen to thank for another strong run, which saw Filipo run in his second try and the win.
Canterbury 31 (Blair Murray 3, Cullen Grace, Ben Funnell tries; Fergus Burke 3 con) Wellington 36 (Josh Southall, Losilosivale Filipo 2, Sione Halalilo, Kyle Preston, Peter Umaga-Jensen tries; Tjay Clarke con; Sam Clarke 2 con). HT: 5-19
Counties Manukau made the first try-scoring impression in the game, centre Tevita Ofa scoring after a kick-off following a penalty goal to Waikato fullback Tepaea Cook-Savage. But Cook-Savage dropped the restart, and the visitors made the most of it, with wing Toni Pulu attracting the defence before an in-pass to Ofa, who scored. A Riley Hohepa penalty goal just before the break gave Counties an 8-6 lead.
Waikato had enjoyed a wealth of first-half possession but needed to sharpen their act. They used their lineout to set their base. Halfback Cortez Ratima took advantage of a rolling lineout maul moving infield to pick up the ball and get over for the first try of the half. Another lineout drive resulted in an advantage for Waikato, and when the ball was moved, a miss pass from first five-eighths Taha Kemara was taken by wing Daniel Sinkinson to score. Another lineout maul resulted in a penalty try for Waikato, with replacement hooker Ioane Moananu sin-binned. Sinkinson was rewarded for his work in the lead-up to the next try, again after a lineout, and crossed when the ball was moved, picking it up at the breakdown and scoring. Counties Manukau looked li in the following play, but second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea picked off an intercept and ran 70m to score. However, the visitors had a final chance and wing Etene Nanai-Seturo showed his class after a break by first five-eighths Riley Hohepa to step past three and score near the posts.
Waikato 37 (Cortez Ratima, Daniel Sinkinson 2, Quinn Tupaea tries; Penalty try; Tepaea Cook-Savage 2 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 15 (Tevita Ofa. Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Riley Hohepa con). HT: 6-8