Coun­ties taste their first de­feat

Manukau Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - RICHARD KNOWLER

‘‘We iden­ti­fied a bit of space out wide and that is re­flected in the wingers and full­back scor­ing four of the tries.’’

If Wayne Love felt like wrap­ping his head in his hands when the Can­ter­bury women’s rugby team trailed Coun­ties-Manukau 24-5 on Satur­day, he wasn’t say­ing it.

Clearly Love knew some­thing that the rest of us didn’t. Be­cause Can­ter­bury dragged back their way back from the half­time deficit in the Farah Palmer Cup match to beat na­tional pro­vin­cial cham­pi­ons 32-29 in Pukekohe, and in do­ing so they hauled the JJ Ste­wart Tro­phy back to Christchurch.

De­spite his op­ti­mism - which proved well founded when Can­ter­bury roared back with three tries after the hal­time break - Love was still made to sweat. Although Can­ter­bury took the lead with around 10 min­utes re­main­ing, they did their best to blow their hard work when Coun­ties im­me­di­ately replied with a try after the re-start.

In the end it re­quired a try from full­back Grace Brooker, with three min­utes re­main­ing, to earn Can­ter­bury their suc­cess and the fact that the vis­i­tors’ scored five of their six tries through their backs vin­di­cates their de­ci­sion to play an ex­pan­sive game.

It also says a lot about their fit­ness and abil­ity to stay fo­cused.

‘‘With Coun­ties be­ing quite a bit big­ger, and not quite so mo­bile around the pad­dock, that is where we wanted to go with it (the game plan),’’ Love said. ‘‘And, cer­tainly, in the sec­ond half, it worked well.’’

Can­ter­bury had to over­come their share of grief in the early scrums, but they got that right. The li­ne­out also got bet­ter, to the point where Coun­ties opted to throw to the front and had pos­ses­sion stolen from them in the sec­ond spell. If goal kicker Ken­dra Cocksedge had more suc­cess with the boot, the vis­i­tors would have won by more.

Love wasn’t com­plain­ing. Not about her low kick­ing per­cent­ages, or the fact his side made such a slow start.

‘‘Even though we were down 24-5 at the break, I still thought we were in it.’’

It turned out to be an easy fix. Don’t com­mit so many play­ers to the rucks, fan out in defence and if you get the ball give it some air.

‘‘We iden­ti­fied a bit of space out wide and that is re­flected in the wingers and full­back scor­ing four of the tries.’’ (Melanie Puckett, Sam Cur­tis 2, Re­becca Todd, Ken­dra Cocksedge, Grace Brooker tries; Cocksedge con)

HT: 24-5.

Can­ter­bury 32 29. Coun­ties Manukau

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