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Taranaki halts Waikato charge

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Sunday, August 15, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The loss was Waikato's first of the season and ultimately it paid the price for letting Taranaki out to a 27-9 lead at halftime, a time when tempers had not become frayed. And even a bonus point was lost when replacement Taranaki first five-eighths Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty goal to take the margin out to a 10-point lead.

Waikato also paid the price for not taking a penalty goal attempt with nine minutes remaining.

The home team suffered a potentially-crippling blow when lock Romana Graham and flanker Liam Messam were sin-binned for punching in the 62nd minute. But some superb defence, allied to some outstanding tactical kicking from first five-eighths Trent Renata, meant that Taranaki was unable to take advantage of the situation.

But the more significant fact was the momentum Waikato had built was emasculated by the loss of the players and while there were 10 minutes left when they returned, Taranaki was able to hold fast.

Down 9-27 at the halftime break Taranaki had lift itself considerably to get back into the game. It took a third quarter revival, fuelled by a controversial ruling which denied wing Dwayne Sweeney a try, which saw calm heads prevail as Graham got over moments after prop and captain Nathan White had been held up over the line.

The momentum switched completely and after a line break by Renata saw him link with Messam who went inside, then out, to off-load to centre Save Tokula and when Renata added a superb conversion it was back to 23-30.

Taranaki made a flying start after a penalty attempt by first five-eighths Willie Ripia hit the post and rebounded into play. But in subsequent play Ripia fired a long pass to fullback Kurt Baker who flicked it to right wing Andre Taylor. He glided along the sideline, beat Graham's tackle and then carried on to head the cover defence for a superb try. Ripia added a fine conversion from the sideline.

Renata got Waikato on the board with penalty goals in the eighth and 12th minutes before he and Ripia exchanged a penalty each to make the score 10-9 in Taranaki's favour.

But around the 30-minute mark, Waikato wing Henry Speight dallied with a long Waikato kick and was caught in possession. Taranaki secured the ball and took advantage of two penalty advantages to get the ball close to the line where a nice piece of cohesion between Taylor and Baker saw the latter run back on the angle to score. Ripia added the conversion and then a penalty goal to take Taranaki out to 20-9.

Just before halftime a Taranaki lineout steal saw a rolling maul mounted and it was replacement flanker Scott Waldrom who got the ball down for the try.

There was another controversial moment in the 49th minute on the end of the best Waikato move to that stage of the game when Dwayne Sweeney crossed only to have the try disallowed when the touch judge said Tokula had stepped into touch. Television evidence showed otherwise.

Scorers: Waikato 23 (Romana Graham, Save Tokula tries; Trent Renata 2 con, 3 pen) Taranaki33 (Andre Taylor, Kurt Baker, Scott Waldrom tries; Willie Ripi 3 con, 3 pen; Beauden Barrett pen). HT: 27-9