Thu, 01 Sep 2016
The Counties Manukau Steelers picked up the all-important five points in their second win of the Mitre 10 Cup. They put on a dominant performance to defeat Hawke’s Bay 48-20 at McLean Park in Napier tonight.
The Steelers got off to a flying start, with Piers Francis kicking a drop goal in the opening four minutes to hit the lead 3-0. A few minutes later co-captain Augustine Pulu made a great break, putting a kick in which was well picked up by Luteru Laulala. Momentum carried Laulala over the line to score and Francis nailed the conversion to make it 10-0.
However, it didn’t take long for Hawke’s Bay to get on the board, with Ihaia West kicking a penalty before Robbie Fruean scored the home side’s first try of the match. West’s conversion made it 10-10 after 20 minutes.
The Steelers then scored an impressive team try, which will be sure to make the highlights reel. Again it was Pulu who made a break. He kicked cross field and it found Sam Vaka who scored in the corner to make it 15-10. Shortly after, Jordan Taufua burst through the maul to charge right towards the try line to score next to the posts to extend Counties Manukau’s lead to 22-10 after half an hour of play.
While the Steelers attack was electric in the first spell, equally was there defence. They scrambled well to stop two Hawke’s Bay tries under the posts and one of their biggest plays of the game came when they won a defensive scrum five metres out from their line when the hosts were hot on attack.
West kicked another penalty just before the break to make it 22-13 at half time to the Steelers.
Counties Manukau took every point on offer early in the second spell, with Francis kicking four early penalties. This made the score 34-13, but it wasn’t long until the Magpies struck back again. Ryan Tongia scored a try which was converted by West and they closed the gap to 34-20. But the Steelers finished strong, with Taufua crossing over for his second of the night, which was also the bonus point try. Then Sione Fifita scored Counties’ fifth and final try.
It was a performance to be proud of. The Steelers defence was immense and set piece went well on both attack and defence. Augustine Pulu said he was very happy with how the boys played.
“We knew that right across the board Hawke’s Bay had a lot of strike power and we knew it would be hard coming down here. It was a tough fight and the scoreboard doesn’t really reflect how hard it was, but as captain tonight I’m very proud.
“We looked at last week’s game and we didn’t start well, but once we started kicking it in the second half it worked. Our start is what we worked on this week and we put in a real big effort in that area. It wasn’t the perfect performance but I’m happy with the win.”
Counties Manukau Steelers:
Luteru Laulala, Sam Vaka, Jordan Taufua 2, Sione Fifita tries; Piers Francis 1 drop goal; 4 conversions; 4 penalties
Hawke’s Bay Magpies:
Robbie Fruean, Ryan Tongia tries; Ihaia West 2 penalties; 2 conversions
The Steelers next home game at ECOLight Stadium is a special one against Wellington on Friday 9 September at 7:45pm, where both sides will be celebrating the life of the great Jonah Lomu. Counties Manukau and Wellington will be playing for the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy, and the Steelers will be wearing special edition Jonah jerseys. It will be a great night, so make sure to be part of it. Tickets are available at www.steelers.co.nz or www.iticket.co.nz at the CMRFU Office at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe Monday to Friday between 8.30am – 5pm or at the Gate on Game Day.
Richard Spranger - Photo Credit