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Naholo, Riccitelli set up late Taranaki win

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Saturday, September 2, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The visitors had performed well to have a chance to claim their first win over Taranaki since 2013 but a skillful response under pressure from the home side produced two fine late tries to secure the win. 
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While it was the skills of the backs who produced a second try for wing Waisake Naholo to get them back within striking distance 13 minutes from time, it was the forwards who took charge to keep the ball close before Riccitelli had the chance to score the matchwinner.

Taranaki captain Charlie Ngatai praised the work of his forward pack in the later stages while Baden Kerr said it had been hard to fault the Counties Manukau effort and it was a heart-breaking loss, especially after playing so well into the strong wind in the second half.

The wind made conditions difficult but Counties Manukau were unable to apply pressure on the scoreboard when starting with the wind at their back. Penalty goals were exchanged between Kerr and Taranaki fullback Marty McKenzie initially.

But when Taranaki attempted to break out of their own 22m area, courtesy of a long, but errant, kick by Naholo, they were unable to prevent Kerr tidying the ball and taking it forward before creating a chance for wing Tevita Naburu who put his speed to good use with only lightly-built Taranaki first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta between him and the line.

It was no contest and Counties got out to a 10-3 lead before McKenzie landed a second penalty goal.

Taranaki started to get some cohesion working in the second quarter into the wind, and clever play with flanker Lachlan Boshier firing ball out to the backs through his legs, saw No.8 Toa Halifili maintaining the impact he had made earlier in the game, passing out to left wing Manasa Mataele who found Naholo and the All Black sped in for the try which gave Taranaki an 11-10 halftime lead.

However, Counties Manukau made the better start to the second half when flanker Sam Henwood, who had a superb game in the loose, moved the ball off a lineout to halfback Jonathan Taumateine. Another outstanding contributor, he flicked a backpass to hooker Gafatasi Su'a who linked again with Henwood who had stayed in support.

Grounded short of the line, Henwood set up the ruck and Taumateine grabbed the ball and placed it on the line.

Henwood was perfectly placed in the 53rd minute to take advantage replacement team-mate Jonathan Kawau's tackle of Taranaki bench player Asaeli Sorovaki. The ball was jolted free and Henwood grabbed it and he fed it to Nabura who scorched down the sideline. He in-passed to Taumateine who back-handed a perfectly weighted pass to back-up hooker Joe Royal for the try.

Belying the conditions, Taranaki responded with skills creating something from nothing in midfield. Perofeta picked up a pass that had gone to ground and stepped his way through a gap to glide into space to provide quick ball for second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai to cross to get Taranaki back to 18-24 down.

Hooker Ricky Riccitelli went close from a lineout five metres out from the line, but forward replacement Jonathan Kawau produced a pile-driving tackle to drop him millimetres short of the line. But a penalty was conceded by the defenders from the resulting scrum and Taranaki massed the forces to drive into the goalmouth before superb hands saw the ball through the backline for Naholo to dive over in the corner to set up the thrilling final 10 minutes.

Scorers: Taranaki 30 (Waisake Naholo 2, Charlie Ngatai, Ricky Riccitelli tries; Marty McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 27 (Tevita Naburu, Jonathan Taumateine, Joe Royal tries; Baden Kerr 3 con, pen). HT: 11-10