Draw gets Counties Manukau off bottom

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Sunday, September 24, 2017    Getty Images

It was a game of ebbs and flows and lost opportunities which took their toll. It appeared two older hands at first five-eighths, home player Mike Delany and Stephen Donald for the visitors, might have had the outcome in their hands.

Donald was penalised when not releasing the ball before going again after a tackle and in the resulting play Delany was given a 40m penalty shot but it flew just wide, then as Bay of Plenty built for a dropped goal attempt, Delany cramped up as he took the shot and the ball flew wide.

Bay of Plenty started impressively, especially through their scrum and some lively work from halfback Richard Judd. And with 10 minutes gone it was Judd who charged down an attempted in-goal clearance by Counties Manukau first five-eighths Baden Kerr. The ball flew high and prop Solomona Sakalia couldn't believe his luck in being perfectly placed on the goal-line to take the ball and drop straight to ground for the try.

Then with more pressure building, Counties Manukau tried to run the ball out of their own 22m area but centre Nigel Ah Wong dropped the ball and Delany swooped in to pick up the ball and take play to the line and when the ball emerged second five-eighths Terrence Hepetema scored.

With Counties Manukau finally starting to gain some traction in field position Pulu took a tap penalty to make good ground and force desperate Bay of Plenty defence in the goalmouth. As the forwards rumbled through their pick-and-goes, the intiative was taken by flanker Fotu Lokotui who drove around the side of a ruck to score.

Five minutes later, in the 33rd minute, fullback Tim Nanai-Williams dummied to kick just 10m inside the Counties Manukau half and made good ground before finding Lokotui in support. He took the ball forward with hooker Joe Royal and prop Pauliasi Manu both having runs before the goal-line ruck saw Pulu take his chance to score.

Delany landed a penalty goal just before the break but Counties Manukau came out for the second half and from the first scrum, Pulu broke from the base, wasn't held in the tackle and drove on before more mauling drives. But from a ruck under the goalposts, Pulu lobbed a long pass out wide to second five-eighths Orbyn Leger and he passed to wing Albert Nikoro for Counties Manukau to gain the lead for the first time.

A few minutes later, Counties Manukau No.8 Sam Henwood, who had a combative game in the loose, made a turnover and it was Nanai-Williams whose long pass found Ah Wong and Nikoro outside and it was Nikoro's in-pass that saw Ah Wong cross wide out.

Counties Manukau got a costly reminder about the need for discipline when wing Tevita Nabura threw a ball at a Bay player over the touchline and referee Michael Lash awarded a penalty.

From the resulting lineout, Bay of Plenty worked the ball across field and back before centre Lalakai Foketi was able to put his footwork to use to create half a chance to score.

Mounting frustration in the Counties Manukau side resulted in indiscipline proving costly as demonstrated at a ruck near their goal-line where Pulu ripped the goalposts pad off the post and given its safety implications was fortunate the referee stuck with his original scrum ruling.

However, Bay had their reward when Parete took the ball from the base of the scrum to score.

Counties Manukau drew level again after replacement loose forward Viliami Taulani made the line break into clear territory and found replacement back Liam Daniela who scored.

Scorers: Bay of Plenty 31 (Solomona Sakalia, Terrence Hepetema, Lalakai Foketi, Jesse Parete tries; Mike Delany 4 con, pen) Counties Manukau 31 (Fotu Lokotui, Augustine Pulu, Albert Nikoro, Nigel Ah Wong, Liam Daniela tries; Baden Kerr 2 con; Luteru Laulala con). HT: 17-14