Semple kicks Steelers home
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
He scored 22 points through a near-perfect showing of six penalties and two conversions, outplaying opposite No.10 Aaron Cruden as he attempted to impress the All Black selections.
In Cruden's defence, play did not go his way and his goal-kicking was solid in a year where it means so much at a higher level.
There was plenty to entertain the local crowd as two sides with an attacking penchant exhibited it from long-range and short.
It was a particular test of emotions in the first half as the lead changed six times, eventually falling the home side's way, 18-17 at the break, and they were never to be headed.
Counties Manukau's tries were scored by Sherwin Stowers and Reynold Lee-Lo either side of halftime, the first of which was a beauty that required more than fingers and toes to count the amount of phases before Stowers ran a perfect angle close to the line.
Lee-Lo's effort also resulted in a yellow card for influential halfback Aaron Smith, who impeded Siale Piutau from scoring earlier with an early tackle.
It didn't cost his side anything, however. In fact it played into their hands as the Turbos moved flying wing Tomasi Cama into his vacant role and provided the ignition for a potential comeback.
Cama, whose dazzling feet had earlier lit up the Pukekohe night in his 50th Manawatu appearance by setting up a try for fellow wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma, got involved again as he doubled round from a scrum and bemused the home side's defence to send centre Lewis Marshall over almost untouched.
It drew the Turbos within a scoring play away from drawing level but it couldn't be done.
Semple had an opportunity with six minutes to go to kill off Manawatu's hopes and deny them of a bonus point as well, but was just short from 42m.
Nonetheless, it was the first win of Counties Manukau's championship campaign and a valuable four points after an opening defeat to Bay of Plenty.
There is little time for the Turbos to get off the canvas and dust themselves off as they front up in three days' time at home to Northland.
The Steelers have the 'luxury' of an extra day before they cross the Cook Strait to take on winless Tasman in Blenheim.
Counties Manukau 32
Tries: Stowers, Lilo
Cons: Semple 2
Pens: Semple 6
Tries: Fitzgerald, Tikoirotuma, Marshall
Cons: Cruden 2
Pen: Cruden 2
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