Counties Manukau defy odds with 13-men for win

Getty Images

Saturday, October 14, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

What better way to respond to losing two players, one sent off and one to the sin-bin, when 15 minutes remained, than to unleash the dynamic talents of flying fullback Tim Nanai-Williams. The Samoan international, who had been his usual danger all game, was given the ball after a 17-phase movement on such an acute angle that he blitzed through the defence and by sheer speed out-paced the cover to give his side a 38-30 lead.

Then, still undeterred by their numerical disadvantage, and against a Tasman side bolstered with their own sin-binned player Samiuela Moli, the home team had a try denied to replacement hooker Gafatasi Su'a when held up by halfback Billy Guyton but from the five-metre scrum it was outstanding No.8 Sam Henwood who drove ahead to take his side to a 45-30 lead.

Then to cap it all, on full-time, it was Nanai-Williams who put replacement Baden Kerr into the gap for the final try which was extravagantly converted by skipper Jimmy Tupou.

It was a remarkable finish to a game which threatened to unravel 15 minutes from the end.

Having just got in front 61 minutes into the game courtesy of a penalty try when Tasman were ruled to have taken a goal-line maul to ground, Counties Manukau were reduced to 13 when wing Albert Nikoro was sent off for a swinging arm which made contact with the head of Tasman fullback Tima Faingaanuku.

Then, 15m further down the line in the same movement, Kerr was also ruled to have made a dangerous tackle on replacement Rupena Parkinson and was yellow-carded.

Yet, their dismissals only seemed to fire the home team's determination and Tasman never got a look-in as the superior forward strength, which had been put to good use to claw their way back into the game earlier, came into play from Counties Manukau.

Tasman had put their faith in their less-experienced brigade and they responded with a sizzling start, running in tries to first five-eighths Timothy O'Malley, after a strong run into the backline by fullback Tima Faingaanuku, after two minutes, and flanker Ethan Blackadder in the sixth minute.

Finally getting their hands on the ball to build play, Counties Manukau had two attempts from penalty-oriented lineout drives before hooker Joe Royal got over in the 12th minute. Then on the opposite side of the field centre Nigel Ah Wong appeared in the middle of another driving maul to score in the 17th minute.

Tasman No.8 Peter Samu made a storming midfield break to set up a ruck five metres out from the goal-line. Halfback Finlay Christie was able to clear the ball quickly and centre Trael Joass threw a long pass to the wing where Levi Aumua picked up the ball nicely to race in for a try.

Counties Manukau had a second try to Royal ruled out after obstruction was ruled earlier in the movement but they had their reward after the half-time siren when Joass attempted another long pass only to see it Ah Wong knock it up and regather it before running 30m to score.

But another lightning start after the break by Tasman saw a key break made by flanker Vernon Fredericks create a chance to set up good ball for second five-eighths Alex Nankiville to run out for a 41st minute try.

In keeping with the end-of-term touch to the game Counties Manukau built on a strong Ah Wong break after a scrum for Nanai-Williams to demonstrate the worth of a well-timed pass to see second five-eighths Orbyn Leger cross in the 46th minute.

Scorers: Counties Manukau 52 (Joe Royal, Nigel Ah Wong 2, Orbyn Leger, Tim Nanai-Williams, Sam Henwood, Baden Kerr, Penalty try, tries; Stephen Donald 2 con; Luteru Laulala 2 con; Jimmy Tupou con) Tasman 30 (Timothy O'Malley, Ethan Blackadder, Levi Aumua, Alex Nankiville tries; O'Malley 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 19-22