Thu, 18 Aug 2016
The Counties Manukau Steelers put on a gutsy performance against North Harbour in their opening game of the Mitre 10 Cup at QBE Stadium tonight. But unfortunately it wasn’t enough to secure the victory. The home side took the win 20-17.
North Harbour got themselves on the board early through a converted try, to lead 7-0 inside the first 5 minutes. Fullback Joe Reynolds hit back with a penalty a few minutes later to close the gap to 7-3.
In the 26th minute, blindside flanker Jordan Taufua crossed the white chalk and Piers Francis converted to give Counties Manukau a 10-7 lead. Counties Manukau were down to 14 men after Sam Vaka was sinbinned late in the first spell. Harbour struck back with a penalty to level the score at 10-10, which remained the score at half time.
The score remained 10-10 for some time into the second half, before Sherwin Stowers made a good break putting a kick in for Cardiff Vaega who appeared to have scored. But it went upstairs and replays showed North Harbour had got a hand to the ball first.
The injury curse continued for Counties Manukau shortly after, with promising flanker Fotu Lokotui suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, after spending quite a lot of time on the ground. We hope Lokotui makes a full recovery and more will be known about his injury in the next few days.
Shortly after Lokotui’s injury, North Harbour kicked a penalty to reclaim the lead, 13-10. The home side started to gather momentum and they then scored another try to extend their lead to 20-10 with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The Steelers never gave up though, and after quite a few phases on attack, replacement prop Sione Faletau scored right next to the posts. Francis converted and Counties Manukau only trailed 20-17 with 5 minutes to go. The Steelers regained possession and very nearly stole victory right at the end, before a penalty was awarded to North Harbour to eventually hand them the win.
It was a very spirited performance from Counties Manukau, who had 12 debutants in the side.
Skipper Jimmy Tupou said they were disappointed with the result.
“To be honest our discipline let us down and we didn’t take our opportunities when we got them. But we now have a 10-day turnaround and a lot of time to try and fix things.
“We will definitely take some positives out of the game. North Harbour played well and took their opportunities, we just need to make sure we do the same.”
Tupou said he’s enjoying leading the side again and that it’s an easy job because it’s a great group to work with.
Thank you to North Harbour for the match and we wish you all the best for the remainder of the Mitre 10 Cup season.
The Steelers first home game of the season is next Sunday the 28th August at ECOLight Stadium against Bay of Plenty at 4.35pm. Tickets for that match are available at www.steelers.co.nz or www.iticket.co.nz or at the CMRFU Office at ECOLight Stadium during office hours or at the Gate on game day. Gates open at 1.30pm, with the Counties Manukau Under 19’s playing the curtain raiser against Bay of Plenty Under 19’s at 2pm.
Remember next Sunday’s fixture is Club Day and Junior March Past. Wear your club colours to get into the South Auckland Motors Embankment for Free.
Don’t forget Season Memberships are still available. A Season Membership will get you into our five home games against Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Taranaki, Waikato and Canterbury. Season Memberships cost as little as $50 for Kids in the Grandstand and $100 for Adults. Visit www.steelers.co.nz for more details.
We would also like to wish the Counties Manukau Heat all the best for their Farah Palmer Cup fixture this Saturday, also against North Harbour at Massey Park in Papakura. Kick off at 1pm.