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Ta'auso cuts loose in Counties win

Photosport

Wednesday, August 17, 2011    Sportal.co.nz    Photosport

It was an impressive display which made the most of his hard-running ability, and which provided opportunities aplenty, not all of them taken, for his outside backs.

North Harbour refused to lie down, however, and had their own chances to claim a victory, but the pain continues for the side which less than a week ago had the Ranfurly Shield in their pocket only to lose it in the last second.

Their centre Rudi Wulf gave an early indication of his intent when making a powerful surge down the grandstand touchline, however, the move broke down. But moments later, an attack launched just inside the Counties Manukau half, which saw wing Ken Pisi in at first five-eighths from the blindside. He made a superb take of a low pass and the ball moved to wing David Raikuna on the left wing.

Raikuna demonstrated his skill again when slipping down the sideline to in-pass just short of the line. However, the ball was went to defending halfback August Pulu, but he wasn't able to control the ball and it slipped from his grasp for Wulf to touch it down just short of the deadball line.

Botica backed his second minute penalty goal with a superb sideline conversion to give North Harbour a 10-0 lead.

Counties Manukau mounted their own attack but two try-scoring chances, one to centre Niva Ta'auso and another to wing Sherwin Stowers, went begging due to handling lapses.

However, the home pressure brought its reward when No.8 Mat Luamanu made the wrong choice from a five-metre scrum to go to the blindside and it was the home forwards who were quickly onto the ball and it was hooker Mark Price who drove over to score.

Counties Manukau first five-eighths James Semple landed two penalty goals to give his side an 11-10 lead but from the re-start an infringement saw Botica land a penalty goal to put North Harbour back in front.

Just before halftime a Stowers break made up for more dropped ball by No.8 Fritz Lee and flanker Adam Cathcart. He set up play which saw the ball come to Ta'auso and he fed the flying fullback Tim Nanai-Williams into space. While he was tackled, Nanai-Williams wasn't held, he got up again and in the process three missed tackles allowed him to touch down for the try. Semple's conversion took Counties Manukau to the break 18-13 up.

Further complications for North Harbour occurred when the second half started. Counties Manukau attacked and while a splendid try-saving tackle by skipper Chris Smylie was made, the momentum was with the home team and it was flanker Mark Selwyn who drove over for the try.

North Harbour refused to buckle however, and came back immediately by holding onto the ball and moving the home defence around before a superbly-timed pass from second five-eighths Pita Akhu fed Luamanu into a gap for what was a soft try.

The action continued when Counties' rearguard ripped open the North Harbour defences for Stowers to score in the 53 rd minute.

Botica, four minutes later, completed a brilliant individual try from 40m out when jinking his way through for the try and when adding the conversion it was back to a five-point margin.

However, a Botica turnover in midfield allowed Ta'auso to rip through and feed Stowers toward the line where his pass found replacement Bundee Akhi who touched down.

But that merely served to set North Harbour up for a response which duly came when Luamanu got over from a tap penalty and maul to get the decision from the TMO.

Scorers:
Counties Manukau 40
Tries: Price, Nanai-Williams, Selwyn, Stowers, B Akhi
Con: Semple 3
Pen: Semple 2, Baden Kerr

North Harbour 32
Tries: Wulf, Luamanu 2, Botica
Con: Botica 3
Pen: Botica 2
HT: 18-13