Canterbury survive Counties scare
Sunday, October 6, 2013 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
Missing 12 starters - including Hika Elliot, Frank Halai, Baden Kerr and Sherwin Stowers - Tana Umaga's side hardly struck fear into the hearts of the AMI Stadium faithful, but after they stormed to a 23-9 lead, Canterbury's 15-year dominance over the men from Pukekohe was under threat.
That's when the red-and-black machine kicked into gear and piled on 29 unanswered points - through tries to Patrick Osborne, Nasi Manu and Luke Whitelock (2).
The late surge saved Scott Robertson's blushes, after his side struggled with decision-making and a lack of energy that saw the visitors up 13-9 at the break.
Poor ball security and execution at the set-piece also proved costly as the Steelers pounced through second-five Tyrone Lefau and Sean Reidy.
The latter was enthusiastic and was a constant presence at the breakdown. Usually a fixture on the bench, he stated his case for more game time by finishing off a sweeping passing play in the left corner to put the visitors ahead by 16 points.
But in true Canterbury fashion, they fought back with two quick-fire tries to Osborne and Manu, who was brought on as a replacement after the break.
Back to within two points, Tyler Bleyendaal (16 points) stepped up to slot his fourth penalty of the afternoon to snatch a slender 24-23 lead.
By then the Steelers were struggling to keep up as Whitelock put the result beyond doubt with a brace in the final stages of the match.
With a semi-final berth already in the bag, Counties Manukau will regroup for next week's Ranfurly Shield defence against Southland.
Canterbury: 38 (Patrick Osborne, Nasi Manu, Luke Whitelock 2 tries; Tyler Bleyendaal 2 con, 4pen; Richie Mo'unga con) Counties Manukau: 23(Tyrone Lefau, Sean Reidy tries; Ki Anufe 2 con, 3 pen) HT: 9-13
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