Steelers dig deep to see off Taniwha
Sunday, October 1, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
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In the end it was the Steelers grit and determination that won out as Northland were cruelly denied a bonus point to stay at fourth in the Championship while Counties Manukau have leap-frogged Waikato to move out the wooden spoon position in the Premiership.
Playing on their home track, Counties Manukau made a statement early when wing Albert Nikoro went over on the back of a sweeping back movement after just one minute. Northland answered back almost immediately with a penalty to make it 5-3 but it took 27 minutes before any more points were added.
The game became an arm wrestle between two evenly matched packs as the dangerous backlines of either team became bystanders for long periods.
But when the backlines did come into play it was worth it. Two of the Steelers genuine game breakers combined for the second try of the match when an incisive run by Augustine Pulu set up Samoan international Tim Nanai Williams for the try.
The momentum swung even further back to Northland early in the second half when outside back Blake Hohaia crossed following a steady build up to give the Taniwha the lead for the first time.
The see-saw battle continued as Breen and Kerr traded penalties. Former All Black Stephen Donald made an immediate impact when he came on with a number of nice touches before he finished a slick backline effort to make it 22-16 to the home side.
Northland would have been satisfied to pick up a bonus point but Counties Manukau had the last say with a Luteru Laulala penalty extending the lead beyond seven points.
While there was moments of brilliance outwide for Counties Manukau, it was in the pack where the match was won. Loose forward Jimmy Tupou and prop Joe Royal were inspirational throughout for the Steelers and would both have to be in the calculations for Duane Monkley Medals points.
Counties Manukau 25 (Albert Nikoro, Tim Nanai-Williams, Stephen Donald tries, Baden Kerr con, pen, Luteru Laulala con, pen) Northland 16 (Blake Hohaia try, Peter Breen 3 pen, con).
FT | @CountiesRugby hang on for the 'W' and move off the bottom of the Premiership ladder!#COUvNOR pic.twitter.com/OCUX0Selcu— Mitre10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) October 1, 2017
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