The Counties Manukau PIC Steelers have gone down 39-21 to Manawatu in Palmerston North in the Bunnings Warehouse NPC opener on Friday night.
The match was played in wet and dour conditions at FMG Stadium and the visitors were never able to find a rhythm in the game.
Penalties hurt Tai Lavea’s side – a lopsided penalty count will be of concern.
Debutant Jarrod Halliday opened the scoring with a long-range penalty goal to put the visitors in front early. But there was little else to celebrate in the first half.
Impressive flanker Alamanda Motuga, fresh off a superb club season with Ardmore Marist and international campaign with Samoa, scored early in the second half to bring Counties Manukau to within seven points.
But first-five Brett Cameron continued to control the game, adding penalties whenever the opportunities came along, as Manawatu put together an impressive all-round performance.
Samoan prop Kalolo Tuiloma scored a consolation try at the final siren.
“We probably didn’t play as well in these conditions and our discipline really let us down,” captain Orbyn Leger said.
“The breakdown and retaining our ball is the key and if we can do that we should be alright [moving forward].”
The PIC Steelers will look to bounce back when they play their first home match at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe next Friday night against North Harbour.
Counties Manukau 21: Motuga, Tuiloma tries, Halliday 3 penalties, conversion
Manawatu 39: Wild, Cameron, Niuia tries, Cameron 3 conversions, 6 penalties
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