At Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth: Taranaki 25 (Kaylum Boshier 6min, Daniel Waite 34min, Kini Naholo 49min, Waite 2 con, 2 pens) Counties of Manukau 14 (Riley Hohepa 22min, Sam Tuifua 59min, Hohepa 2 with) HT: 20-7.
Taranaki won two wins and gave Mitch Brown a proper send-off from Yarrow Stadium, despite a late return from Manukau County.
The biggest talking point of Wednesday night was the new lighting at Yarrow Stadium, which proved to be a dismal failure when it opened last Friday when Taranaki beat Manawatū 34-24.
There is still room for improvement, but luckily for all involved, the difference between Friday was night and day as Kaylum Boshier looked under the lights on Wednesday night.
Brown, who is out of Japan at the end of the season, came on as a second-half substitute to help hold off Manukau County, who ended up with a much better team than the one that was dominated by Taranaki in the first 40 minutes.
Counties Manukau, who suffered a painful 39-44 loss to Canterbury over the weekend, made some changes to his front row and Taranaki made them pay with an extremely dominant first-half scrum.
Boshier, who was even better than his usual high quality standard, opened the scoring for Taranaki after a sustained attack that was caused by Manukau counties’ lack of discipline.
The home side’s scrum maintained an early strength in Manukau County and this combined with more penalties led Daniel Waite to extend the lead to 10-0.
When Counties Manukau finally got some decent possession on the other side of the field, excited midfielder Cameron Roigard prepared a well-rehearsed exchange play from an offensive scrum to give Riley Hohepa a huge gap to pass and score on the blind side of the scrum.
But another penalty conceded by Counties, after a break from the excellent Tom Florence, gave Waite another three easy points to extend the lead to 13-7.
Not content with kicking points, Waite fell from close range after yet another scrum penalty as the inexperienced Counties Manukau failed to contain Jared Proffit, Ricky Riccitelli and Kyle Stewart.
By half-time, Manukau counties had taken eight penalties to Taranaki’s three, translating into a 62-38% possession lead.
Taranaki also had nine discharges to none of Manukau counties.
In a well-beaten package, no. 8 Setefano Leavasa was strong on both sides of the ball for Counties until he scored early in the 47th minute.
Forward Kini Naholo opened the scoring in the second half, when he went down after a quick touch set up by a turnover from Teihorangi Walden and quick thinking from midfielder Logan Crowley.
Substitute Sam Tuifua scored Counties Manukau’s second attempt – even if the penultimate pass was questionable – in the back of what was arguably the best period of their team’s game, where they were able to build stages.
Taranaki’s defense held up and scrum dominance returned late in the game and was needed when Counties Manukau grabbed the momentum and threatened a shot from the stands before falling short despite several opportunities in the home side’s red zone.
the big moment
Riley Hohepa cut a penalty very well at half-time which allowed Kini Naholo to keep the ball in play. Manukau counties were supposed to have an attack line five meters away, but went off the field for halftime. Given their turnaround in the second half, one attempt or even three points could have made all the difference.
7/10. Counties Manukau’s comeback in the second half brought the competition to life and made for a fun ending.
the big picture
Manukau Counties is out for Southland on Sunday and on the same day, Taranaki also travels to face North Harbour. Both teams need other results to go their way and keep winning to enter the playoffs equation.
Kaylum Boshier. Excellent in all areas. Loaded strong, a defensive workhorse, and a constant threat in collapse, as well as going through a mountain of cleanup work.
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