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Counties Manukau hold off storming BOP finish

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Sunday, August 28, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Powerful running by centre Sam Vaka made life miserable for the Bay defenders and when he had strong running fullback Luteru Laulala and wings Sione Molia and Sherwin Stowers to complement punishing loose forward play spearheaded by flankers Jordan Taufua and Jimmy Tupou and No.8 Sootala Fa'aso'o, it was non-stop action.

Bay of Plenty did come back with three tries in the last 13 minutes to get within five points of a draw but they ran out of time.

It did take Counties Manukau time to warm to their task and in the meantime Bay of Plenty had their own moments, but they faded under the third quarter pressure exerted by the home team.

Attempting to clear the ball from their own 22m proved costly for Counties Manukau in the first quarter. From the first it was an attempted penalty kick to the corner that failed to find touch and Counties ran the ball back. However, a loose pass went to ground and Bay of Plenty wing Monty Ioane was onto it in a flash to go over in the corner.

Then in the 18th minute another mistake resulted in a scrum to Bay of Plenty. They moved the ball to midfield where second five-eighths Terrence Hepetema held the ball up to set the ruck and flanker Hugh Blake was able to pick up and cross the goal-line with the home defence missing in action.

Stuttering Counties Manukau play hindered their chances until Fa'aso'o blasted his way through midfield to provide an opportunity that was rewarded on the right flank when Taufua scored out wide.

Down 11-15 at half-time, Counties Manukau played with much more purpose from the outset of the second half and had early reward after a tremendous drive resulting from a four-man lineout. Counties Manukau's big forwards pounded the line with several pick and goes before lock Viliame Rarasea went over.

Bay of Plenty suffered again when turning the ball over in the home team's 22m area and they cleared the ball downfield and had a try denied when the ball was held up over the line. But in the resulting play Ioane attempted to pull off an intercept that would have seen Stowers score.

A penalty try was awarded and Ioane was sent to the bin. Counties Manukau made Bay of Plenty pay with Molia scoring after another turnover in their own territory by halfback Augustine Pulu. Vaka made a strong break and passed Molia into space, and then it was Stowers who scored after a quick throw-in to Laulala who fed Vaka and he burst the defences again to give Stowers a chance and his speed carried him over beneath the posts.

Bay of Plenty weren't down however and after a good forward build-up it was replacement hooker James O'Reilly who scored. The ploy of moving halfback Te Aihe Toma to first five-eighths allowed Ruki Tipuna to come on and he provided some thrust around the base of rucks firstly setting up a try for wing Regan West, followed moments later by Ioane going across for his second to get within five points into the last two minutes of the game.

Scorers were: Counties Manukau 39 (Jordan Taufua, Viliame Rarasea, penalty try, Sione Molia, Sherwin Stowers tries; Piers Francis 4 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 34 (Monty Ioane 2, Hugh Blake, James O'Reilly, Regan Ware tries; Kelly Haimona con, pen; Te Aihe Toma 2 con). HT: 11-15