Discipline issues can't deny Counties Manukau

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Thursday, October 5, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Pulu was ruled to have made a dangerous tackle on Manawatu replacement first five-eighths Jade Te Rure and he would have breathed a sigh of relief that the side were able to hold out for the last five minutes, especially when a 78th minute try to second five-eighths Jason Emery was ruled out due to an earlier obstruction.

Counties Manukau used the penalty to advantage and held out for the final whistle in a game that featured some outstanding action. More importantly, it should have ensured their Premiership status for next season.

Yellow cards had an impact for both sides in the first quarter and each scored a try with their one-man advantage. First, in the eighth minute, it was Counties Manukau fullback Tim Nanai-Williams who was ruled to have deliberately knocked a pass from Manawatu halfback Kayne Hammington to ground in a dangerous looking move after a break by No.8 Brice Henderson.

From the resulting penalty, Manawatu opted for a lineout play close to the line and Henderson's take fell to prop Michael Alaalatoa on the 'Willie Away' and he scored at referee Glen Jackson's feet.

Then, after penalty goals had been exchanged it was Counties Manukau flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri who infringed in a maul close to his line who was given a 10-minute rest. Counties Manukau repeated the lineout dose in the 19th minute when flanker Ronald Raaymakers got the perfect pass on the blindside flanker from flanker Fotu Lokotui to score in the corner.

Five minutes later just out from the Manawatu 22m line wing Newton Tudreu attempted to keep the ball from going into touch but the ball was picked up by No.8 Sam Henwood who set in train a movement which saw wing Tevita Nabura charge ahead to provide the pass for supporting first five-eighths Stephen Donald to score.

Once Manawatu were restored to 15 players they turned on some action of their own when fullback Te Rangatira Waitokia took a superb gap through the Counties Manukau backline, kicked ahead and then regained the ball before it fell to flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis who gave Tudreu the chance to put his speed to use to score.

Counties Manukau continued to push however and it was centre Nigel Ah Wong who burst through home midfield tackles to slip the ball to second five-eighths Orbyn Leger who scored as the half-time hooter sounded.

The hectic nature of the game didn't let up in the second half and both sides featured in moves sweeping the length of the field but it was Manawatu who reclaimed the field when Tudreu ran the ball out of his own 22m and made good ground before passing to centre Lewis Marshall, who was handy to the action all night. Black loomed outside him in support and flicked a pass inside where wing Ambrose Curtis took it to reclaim the lead for the home team.

Nabura was sin-binned for a late tackle on Black in the move but it was Pulu who almost created the sensation of the night when running from his own goal-line and beating defender after defender in a 60m run but as Counties tried to build on that, the ball was turned over and Manawatu almost scored at the other end.

It was that sort of game.

But after action in the Manawatu 22m Leger repaid the earlier favour from Ah Wong by feeding his centre in to score.

Manawatu made the most of Pulu's exit to play a lineout move five metres out, but the Counties Manukau forwards drove off the line and turned the ball over.

Scorers: Manawatu 24 (Michael Alaalatoa, Newton Tudreu, Ambrose Curtis tries; Otere Black 3 con, pen) Counties Manukau 29 (Ronald Raaymakers, Stephen Donald, Orbyn Leger, Nigel Ah Wong tries; Donald, 3 con, pen). HT: 17-22