Impressive Waikato power home

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Friday, August 25, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

If there was anyone who personified the Waikato effort it was lock James Tucker whose positional presence and support play was rewarded with the side's third try, 30 minutes into the first half. He was powerful, and sensible, with the ball in hand and strong on the break.

It typified a hard-nosed Waikato effort which made the most of chances created and saw the side open their scoring only three minutes into the game when No.8 Jordan Manihera crossed for his fourth try in two games.

Counties Manukau didn't help their cause when conceding nine first half penalties to one, the worst of which saw No.8 Sam Henwood sin-binned for cynical play just out from the line. Two minutes later, after 23 minutes, centre Bailyn Sullivan crossed but he could thank Manihera, who initiated a break, which was developed by Tucker, prop Loni Uhila and blindside flanker Luke Jacobson to create the position which was finally capitalised on with Sullivan's try.

Captain and second five-eighths Dwayne Sweeney might not have been landing his penalty goal attempts but he made it three conversions from three to give Waikato a 21-0 lead at halftime.

Manihera scored his fifth two minutes into the second half after fullback Zac Guildford provided the initial thrust which was boosted by first five-eighths Sam Christie who broke strongly into the 22 and stretched out his arm to touch down for a try only to have it pulled back. But from the ruck, Manihera burrowed in and emerged with the ball to blast over the line.

Reward finally came for Counties Manukau when replacement Tevita Nabura created something from nothing from a standing start when using his acceleration to break the line and run hard towards the 22m line where he was able to in-pass to second five-eighths Stephen Donald who scored against his old province.

Waikato continued to enjoy a dominance of possession but when they gained another opportunity, Counties Manukau pounced as centre Sam Furniss cut inside a tackler and raced into open space. Confronted by a defender in in the 22m area he found halfback Augustine Pulu inside and he scored.

Christie provided the perfect riposte with another clever run towards the goalmouth and while grounded just short, Waikato had men at the breakdown and it was replacement hooker Samisoni Taukeiaho who put his head down and drove over beneath the posts.

Pulu might have been replaced but that didn't reduce the effectiveness at halfback as 11 minutes from the end his replacement Jonathan Taumateine capped some solid work by the forwards, who had a try denied moments earlier in a mauling drive from a lineout, by dabbing the ball over the line from a ruck.

Scorers: Waikato 33 (Jordan Manihera 2, Bailyn Sullivan, James Tucker, Samisoni Taukeiaho tries; Dwayne Sweeney 3 con; Sam Christie con) Counties Manukau 21 (Stephen Donald, Augustine Pulu, Jonathan Taumateine tries; Baden Kerr 3 con). HT: 21-0