Steelers surge to top of Premiership
Friday, September 23, 2016 allblacks.com Getty Images
Needing something special to get back in the game, Waikato got it through dynamic midfielder Willis Halaholo who cut through the Steelers defence to feed right wing Iliesa Ratuva for a try against the run of play.
The try served to quell the Steelers early momentum and gave the visitors a chance to rally. Waikato first five Sam Christie got some much needed territory for the under fire visitors to slow the scoring before Piers Francis knocked over a penalty to close out the half 22-5 to the Steelers.
While the forwards were on song for Counties, the contribution of 9-10 combination Augustine Pulu and Piers Francis cannot be discounted. Pulu was dynamic with ball in hand and powerful on defence while Francis was precise with his line kicking and decision making.
Waikato came back with tries to lock Brad Tucker and replacement prop Steven Misa to secure a four try bonus point but it was the Steelers day as Pulu set up wing Sione Fifita to confirm the bonus point 35-26 win.
The victory has taken Counties Manukau to the top of the ladder on 24 points but they have played two more games than second placed Canterbury on 21 points. Waikato have moved to clear fourth ahead of Auckland courtesy of their four try bonus point.
Augustine Pulu said: “We have a couple of good ball runners so it’s easy for me because our forwards are moving in the right direction. Credit to our forwards tonight.”
Counties Manukau 35 (Kalolo Tuiloma 3, Gafatasi Su'a, Sione Fifita tries, Piers Francis 2 con, 2 pen) Waikato 26 (Iliesa Ratuva, Brad Tucker, Steven Misa tries Jason Robertson try, 2 con Sam Christie con)
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