The Counties Manukau PIC Steelers were outclassed by outstanding competition leaders Tasman 36-0 in the Mitre-10 Cup clash at Navigation Homes in Pukekohe.
While there was plenty of endeavour from the home side, they were at a different level from Tasman who dominated most phases of play with a five-try winning performance to remain unbeaten and the class of this year’s competition.
The Steelers made an enterprising start to the game, but could not take advantage of two attacking lineouts in the opening 10 minutes. Once the visitors managed to repel the early surge, they took over, and their near-perfect 30 minutes to half time not only established the winning break but knocked the stuffing out of the home side.
After leading 24-0 at halftime, Tasman pushed out with two more tries to a 36-0 advantage. To their credit the Steelers forced their way back into the game with a series of forward drives, but Tasman matched their attacking verve with an exacting defensive display to withstand every thrust.
It is not often any team has managed to keep the Steelers off the scoresheet which was testament more to the quality of the visitors who are seemingly a cut above the competition in this year’s Mitre-10 Cup.
The home side started strongly and pressed on the back of two early penalties to threaten the Tasman line. The Mako withstood the attack, and with their first piece of possession broke clear. From that point they then dominated most of the rest of the first half.
They took their chances to run out of defence with outstanding winger Will Jordan scoring firstly wide on the left and then in his usual right-side flank, with both tries converted by Mitch Hunt who added a penalty for the 17-0 lead.
Tasman pushed back on to attack with big centre Levi Aumua powering over late in the half, with Hunt making the conversion before heading off for an HIA assessment which he failed, replaced by Tim O’Malley.
An injury late in the half forced the Steelers to replace skipper Sam Henwood with Malgene Ilaua while Sam Slade and Mickey Woollliams made way for Sikeli Nabou and Viliame Rarasea, and early in the half Conan O’Donnell came on for Tim Metcher in the front row.
There was a significant stoppage for Tasman hooker Andrew Makalio who suffered a head injury after colliding head-on-head with a teammate.
Replacement hooker Hugh Roach scored five minutes into the half from driving play while winger Leicester Faing’anuku made it five tries for the Mako eight minutes from time.
Overall the Steelers were solid at set phase but were unable to create clean front-foot possession and were made to pay for forced passing under pressure.
There were some injury concerns for the Steelers, especially to captain Sam Henwood, with a week to recover before hosting Auckland on the 14th at home at Navigation Homes Stadium, Kick Off 7:35pm.
Scores: Counties Manukau PIC Steelers 0 Tasman 36 (Will Jordan 2, Leicester Faing’anuku, Levi Aumua, Hugh Roach tries; Mitch Hunt 3 cons, 1 pen; Tim O’Malley 1 con)