Counties beat Auckland in FPC
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