Sun, 18 Sep 2016
The Steelers have climbed to third on the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership table after defeating rivals Auckland 30-26 in a nail biter at Eden Park.
It’s the first time since 1977 that Counties Manukau have beaten Auckland at Eden Park and it came right down to the wire. In the 76th minute Auckland hit the lead for the first time in the match, but just a couple of minutes later Augustine Pulu made the play of the game to score what was eventually the match winning try.
It took just four minutes for the Steelers to get on the board. Piers Francis kicked a penalty to give them a 3-0 lead. A couple of minutes later Francis nearly nailed a 49 metre penalty, but it just hit the posts.
In the 17th minute, Counties opted not to take the three points on offer for another penalty, but instead kicked for touch. The decision paid off, with Viliame Rarasea scoring a try to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead.
The Steelers led the possession and territory stats in the first half, with 52% and 53% respectively. They made the most of their possession, when hooker Gafatasi Su’a scored out on the right wing. This handed them a 15-0 lead.
It took 37 minutes for Auckland to score their first points of the match. Counties Manukau’s defence held strong and they managed to hold Auckland out on their own line, before conceding a penalty. Simon Hickey kicked two penalties in the final three minutes to take the score to 15-6 to the Steelers at half time.
The hosts scored first in the second stanza, through the boot of Hickey again. But the intent was still there from the Steelers, and they kept the defensive pressure on.
It didn’t take long for Counties Manukau to strike again and this time it was through winger Sione Fifita. Auckland attempted to kick the ball into touch, and about 20 metres out from the try line, Augustine Pulu kept the ball in play. He flicked it back to Fifita who ran down the sideline virtually untouched to score. This made it 20-9 to the Steelers.
Auckland had a lot more of the possession in the second half and hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate scored off a lineout drive to close the gap to 20-16 with 20 minutes left on the clock. The boot of Simon Hickey was on form and he nailed another penalty to make it a one-point ball game with 15 minutes to go.
Francis slotted a very important long range penalty with eight minutes left on the clock to extend the lead back out to 23-19, but Auckland weren’t done yet. Fullback Latiume Fosita scored for the hosts and Hickey converted it and for the first time in the match Auckland hit the lead.
It came down to a scrum 20 metres out from Counties’ try line. It wasn’t the best scrum by the visitors, but Augustine Pulu scooped the ball up he sped his way down the left sideline to score. Francis converted it and the Steelers managed to hold Auckland out for the final couple of minutes to take the historic victory 30-26.
Assistant coach Grant Henson said it was tough to watch from the sideline in the last few minutes.
“It was a little bit nerve wracking, even right until the end when the ball was on the ground stuck in the middle of the breakdown, but it is so good to get the win and get on the right side this time.
“It was out third game in nine days and today was all about our mental skills. The boys turned up with the right attitude and we call it ‘triple A’ and they put that on the field today.”
Auckland 26 (Greg Pleasants-Tate, Latiume Fosita tries; Simon Hickey 4 pens, 2 cons)
Counties Manukau 30 (Viliama Rarasea, Gafatasi Su’a, Sione Fifita, Augustine Pulu tries; Piers Francis 2 pen, 2 cons)
Our next home game at ECOLight Stadium is against Waikato on Friday 23 September at 7:35pm. Tickets for this match are available at www.iticket.co.nz OR at the CMRFU Office during office hours (Monday – Friday 8.30am – 5pm) OR at the Gate on Game Day. Tickets in the Grandstand cost $20 for Adults, $15 for Students and $10 for kids and Kids 13 & Under are FREE on the South Auckland Motors Embankment thanks to Pak ‘N’ Save Pukekohe.
Photo Credit: Richard Spranger
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