Coun­ties con­quer North­land Tani­wha

Franklin County News - - SPORT - JOSEPH PEAR­SON

Trust Stephen Don­ald to make his mark.

The Beaver turned this Mitre 10 Cup cross­over clash be­tween Coun­ties Manukau and North­land in the Steel­ers’ favour by scor­ing the cru­cial try in their 25-16 vic­tory in Pukekohe on Sun­day.

A sus­pected bro­ken an­kle to North­land’s re­place­ment back Blake Ho­haia, which oc­curred dur­ing the at­tack for Don­ald’s 65th minute try, meant a long stop­page in a tense fi­nal quar­ter where Coun­ties moved ahead.

Coun­ties climb off the bot­tom of the premier­ship and leave Waikato last, while North­land still re­main in con­tention for the cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nals.

Few will care to re­mem­ber this con­test played in try­ing con­di­tions, but both badly needed com­pe­ti­tion points with just two rounds left. Coun­ties are fight­ing to avoid rel­e­ga­tion to the cham­pi­onship in a three-way bat­tle with Auck­land and Waikato, while North­land are at last gun­ning for some semi-fi­nals ac­tion af­ter years of medi­ocrity.

The Tani­wha looked tired, af­ter put­ting so much en­ergy into edg­ing Otago 32-30 and were caught nap­ping when Coun­ties went ahead inside two min­utes. Coun­ties had the bet­ter of the open­ing 40 af­ter Al­bert Nikoro and Tim Nanai-Wil­liams went over, but North­land’s Ho­haia used his mo­men­tum to put the Tani­wha 13-12 ahead in the 50th minute af­ter Peter Breen’s two first half penal­ties.

Breen’s third three-pointer then can­celled out Baden Kerr’s first suc­cess­ful penalty as North­land led 16-15 go­ing into the fi­nal quar­ter.

Don­ald’s in­tro­duc­tion then lifted the few who braved the aw­ful weather at Eco­l­ight Sta­dium and his try, af­ter Coun­ties turned North­land over, gave the hosts the as­cen­dancy.

Ho­haia’s in­jury meant a de­lay and North­land ran out of steam as Coun­ties stretched their lead to 25-16 when Luteru Laulala added a penalty in the 76th minute.

Coun­ties broke the dead­lock by scor­ing inside 90 sec­onds af­ter switch­ing it from left to right and back again be­fore Nikoro went over fol­low­ing Fotu Loko­tui’s line break.

Breen then opened North­land’s ac­count with an easy three off the tee and af­ter 26 score­less min­utes, Coun­ties scored their sec­ond try with Nanai-Wil­liams. Breen struck a sweet penalty be­tween the posts af­ter the hooter sounded to end the first half.

North­land’s Ho­haia crashed over un­der the posts with his first touch. Coun­ties wres­tled the lead back im­me­di­ately when Kerr con­verted his first penalty. But Breen’s third penalty put the Tani­wha ahead again un­til Don­ald scored, af­ter break­ing North­land’s line.

North­land stay fourth, as Coun­ties move level on points with fifth-placed Auck­land.

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