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Counties Manukau does it again

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Sunday, August 8, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Following on from last weekend's good win against Otago, the Steelers followed up with a 31-25 win against assistant coach Tana Umaga's former province Wellington.

Counties were in charge from the start and led 23-3 at the break after tries to Reynold Lee-lo and Ahsee Tuala and 13 points (two conversions and three penalties) from the boot of first five-eighths Baden Kerr, who had an assured performance after coming in for the injured Dean Cummins (concussion).

Wellington were their own worst enemies and the high number of handling errors meant they were unable to get any sort of continuity. They also came off second best at the rucks and were either penalised for holding on or coughed up the ball in the tackle.

The Lions improved in the second half with wing Hosea Gear dotting down in his 50th match for Wellington and Shaun Treeby and Charlie Ngatai also bagging five-pointers.

But a second try for Tuala put the result beyond doubt for the visitors.

It was a sloppy start from both teams with neither able to keep hold of the ball to build a sustained attack. Counties though – through the boot of Kerr – did keep the Lions camped in their own territory and it was only some desperate defending from Daniel Ramsay and Faifili Levave that stopped Viliami Fihaki from scoring from a 20 metre driving maul.

A couple of minutes later lock Taiasina Tuifua was held up over the line but eventually the pressure told and from a five metre scrum the ball was fired out to Kerr who put Lee-lo in the gap and he raced in under the posts.

Fili had a shocking penalty miss on 16 minutes and Wellington's woes deepened when Alapati Leuia's pass was intercepted by wing Tuala who scorched 55 metres to score unopposed.

Lee was then unlucky to have his try disallowed with TMO David Walsh unable to see the grounding of the ball but Kerr extended Counties' lead to 17-0 with his first penalty of the game on 26 minutes.

Fili finally got Wellington on the board with a 28th minute penalty but Kerr banged over another two for the Steelers in quick succession to give the visitors a healthy 23-3 lead at half-time.

Four minutes into the second half and Kerr had extended that advantage to 26-3 with another penalty before Wellington finally found some spark and rattled up 13 points in the space of eight minutes.

Fili slotted a penalty and then Gear finished off a great sweeping counter-attacking move that involved Apoua Stewart, Fili and Treeby, the left wing showing speed and strength to beat Tim Nanai-Williams and score in the corner.

Five minutes later and second five-eighth Treeby was rewarded for a solid performance with a try under the posts after a nice pop-up pass by Ngatai had put him in the gap.

Fili added the conversion to reduce the deficit to just eight points.

It was short-lived though as Wellington coughed up the ball at the ruck again and Tuala tore down the right wing to score his second of the afternoon.

Ngatai grabbed a late consolation try and Cripps' conversion meant Wellington took a bonus point from the game for finishing with seven of the visitors.

Wellington 25 (Hosea Gear, Shaun Treeby, Charlie Ngatai tries; Fa'atonu Fili con, 2 pen; Hayden Cripps con) Counties 31(Reynold Lee-lo, Ahsee Tuala 2 tries; Baden Kerr 2 con, 4 pen). HT: 3-23