Coun­ties beat Auck­land in FPC

The Southland Times - - Sport - David Long

Coun­ties Manukau Heat put on an out­stand­ing dis­play of rugby to beat Auck­land 31-12 in the Farah Palmer Cup on Satur­day.

In the big game of the round, in Pukekohe, the Heat were able to com­fort­ably de­feat an Auck­land team that smashed Tas­man 86-0 last week­end.

Piliu Fe­ofa’aki scored two tries for Coun­ties while Aotearoa Matau and Waiko­hika Flesher also bagged five-pointers. It was also an im­pres­sive day with the boot for Coun­ties half­back Marino-Tauhinu, who goaled four con­ver­sions and a penalty.

For Coun­ties, this was a real test of where they stand and they showed they have the po­ten­tial to make the fi­nal again this year.

Coun­ties are tied at the top of the pre­mier­ship ta­ble af­ter three rounds with de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Canterbury, who handed Waikato their first loss, with a 28-10 re­sult in Christchurch.

Waikato are two points back, level with Manawatu, who kept Bay of Plenty win­less with a 22-10 vic­tory in Palmer­ston North.

In the cham­pi­onship divi­sion, Welling­ton hold a one-point ad­van­tage over Otago, af­ter beat­ing them 38-10 in Porirua.

Hawke’s Bay are in third spot af­ter a 55-10 thrash­ing of win­less Taranaki in In­gle­wood, while in yes­ter­day’s game North Har­bour picked up their first win of the cam­paign with a 51-14 romp over Tas­man in Al­bany.

They scored six tries, to South Africa’s five, but Beau­den Bar­rett con­verted only two of them. That re­turn was made to look dou­bly scant by the four con­ver­sions and a penalty booted by Spring­boks first fiveeighth Han­dre Pol­lard.

Af­ter the match, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it hadn’t been goal­kick­ing which cost the team vic­tory.

That’s all very well, Steve, but what if Bar­rett only kicked two from six at the World Cup? Be­tween now and then, how much em­pha­sis will go on en­sur­ing that doesn’t hap­pen in Ja­pan?

‘‘Oh, no more than we have [al­ready]. It’s not some­thing that we don’t know be­fore last night,’’ Hansen said yes­ter­day.

‘‘Beau­den has these nights. He’s had them be­fore and then he comes out and kicks 100 per cent the next time. Young Pol­lard hadn’t been kick­ing well up un­til last night and he goes out and kicks 100 per cent, so that’s the na­ture of goal­kick­ing.

‘‘Some­times that hurts you and you’ve just got to hope all the

‘‘Beau­den has these nights. He’s had them be­fore and then he comes out and kicks a 100 per cent the next time.’’ Steve Hansen

stars don’t line up in the one night. Last night they did, but the ques­tion of how much im­por­tance will we put on goal­kick­ing? That’s not go­ing to change. It’s al­ways im­por­tant.’’

Hansen and as­sis­tant coach Ian Foster said they dis­cussed get­ting Damian McKen­zie, who had come on as a sec­ond-half re­place­ment at full­back, to perhaps re­lieve Bar­rett of the kick­ing du­ties. Ul­ti­mately, they opted to let the play­ers de­cide.

That’s stan­dard prac­tice. Goal­kick­ing is pres­surised and coaches are loathe to do or say any­thing that un­der­mines a kicker’s con­fi­dence. While Bar­rett was still ea­ger to tee them up, the coaches were happy to let him. The al­ter­na­tive is fraught with too much dan­ger.

But that still doesn’t an­swer the ques­tion of what Hansen would do if Satur­day had been a World Cup knock­out game and not a run-of-the mill Rugby Cham­pi­onship match?

‘‘But we’re not at the World Cup yet. We don’t want to be get­ting too wor­ried about the World Cup yet,’’ Hansen. said


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