Round 1: Canterbury make impressive statement
August 18, 2014
Canterbury and Adam Whitelock overran Auckland in Christchurch © Getty Images
Manawatu have claimed their fourth consecutive ITM Cup win over Northland, scoring two tries in the final 10 minutes having trailed the Taniwha 23-14.
Northland looked to have the game won when scrum-half Sonatane Takalua scored a soft try from a ruck to put them up by nine points, but the Turbos scored almost immediately through fly-half Jade Te Rure before Callum Gibbins scored the match-winner off the back of a rolling maul. Northland kicked two penalties to the corner in the final minutes, but Jordan Olsen overthrew his jumpers on both occasions and Manawatu escaped with the victory.
The key stats of a messy game were Northland's 28 turnovers and Manawatu's 24 missed tackles.
Tasman opened their campaign with a strong win over Hawke's Bay in their championship final re-match, scoring four tries to two in an impressive performance with the ball.
The Makos posted points in the first minute, with lock Joe Wheeler crashing over for the opening try, and they continued to look good through the halves. They posted another try and three penalties before half-time, while they kept the Magpies quiet with only a penalty to head into the break with a comfortable 23-3 lead.
Tasman continued to dominate possession and crossed over for two tries within five minutes before Robbie Fruean put Hawke's Bay back into the contest when he crashed over for the side's opening try. Brendon O'Connor crossed 10 minutes later, but it wasn't enough to reign in the Makos.
Waikato have started their ITM Cup campaign in style, scoring six tries in defeating Wellington Lions, beaten finalists last season, at Westpac Stadium.
The Mooloo Men were particularly impressive in attack in the first half, when they scored five tries to one in claiming a 30-11 margin at the break, while their energetic defence was not easily broken despite the Lions domination of possession and territory.
Statistically the young Mooloos should not have been in the match, as the Lions dominated territory (66%) and possession (59%) and held 16-5 minutes in the opposition 22 after winning nearly double the breakdowns (133 to 69). Waikato also had to make 152 tackles compared with their hosts' 72, but they had more speed and were more clinical with ball in hand - making only three handling errors compared with the Lions' eight - and that was the story behind the result.
Highlights of the match included New Zealand Under-20 star Damien McKenzie's try on debut, All Blacks Sevens winger Joe Webber's brace, rookie midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown's length-of-the-field break for a try from a kick-off, and the appearance off the bench of former All Blacks flanker Marty Holah.
Anton Lienert-Brown scored Waikato's fifth try almost straight from a kick-off © Getty Images
Canterbury opened their campaign to win a seventh consecutive ITM Cup title in emphatic fashion, humiliating Auckland in Christchurch. The hosts led 14-0 inside 15 minutes, and they scored six tries as Auckland went down with barely a whimper.
Johnny McNicholl scored two tries as Canterbury torched the visitors with 15-man rugby, with Joel Everson, Adam Whitelock, Matt Todd and Patrick Osborne, after the full-time siren, also scoring.
Gareth Anscombe kicked three penalties for Auckland, for whom Peter Saili was sin-binned in the second half for slowing down a ruck.
Otago produced an impressive performance to open their ITM Cup campaign, winning in a fashion that suggests they will head to Pukekohe to play Counties Manukau next week with genuine hopes of regaining the Ranfurly Shield they held for one week last year after last previously lifting the Log o' Wood in 1957.
Former New Zealand Under-20 player Fa'asiu Fuatai scored two tries, including a contender for try of the season less than 24 hours after Junior Ngaluafe had touched down a spectacular Southland move, and James Lentjes put the result beyond doubt nine minutes from full-time.
North Harbour, who finished last in the overall standings in the previous two years, were much improved with former Australia A fly-half Daniel Halangahu directing play.
Hayden Parker and Fa'asiu Fuatai were key for Otago Razorbacks © Getty Images
Southland Stags have started their season under new coach Brad Mooar in impressive fashion, raking up a 34-23 victory over Bay of Plenty at home. The Stags looked strong throughout the match, despite a few niggles at the set-piece, with Lima Sopoaga kicking 19-points in his first match for the club.
The Stags opened the scoring early with a penalty, but Bay of Plenty hit back quickly with the opening try of the match and of the season through flanker Johan Bardoul. The Stags hit back within minutes to retake the lead, and they quickly built upon it with two first-half tries through Lolohea Loco and Elliot Dixon and three penalties.
The Stags continued to build their lead through the second half, with Sopoaga kicking an early penalty, while the Steamers managed to stay in touch through the boot of fly-half Dan Hollinshead before a 70th-minute Stags try put the visitors out of touch. In what could be considered one of the best tries of the season already, replacement Willis Halaholo made a strong run, knocking out Bay of Plenty's Teddy Stanaway in the process, before offloading to Tayler Adams who found Cardiff Vaega in support. Vaega then placed a nice kick through to the unmarked Junior Ngaluafe to score. Bay of Plenty did score a consolation try in the 74th minute through prop Siegfried Fisiihoi but it was all to late.
Counties Manukau and Taranaki played out a dour draw to launch the 2014 ITM Cup season in underwhelming fashion.
Counties, the Ranfurly Shield holders, had been expected to score a number of tries with their high-powered backline, but the Amber and Blacks, who avoided relegation to the championship last season only narrowly, proved surprisingly resilient in front of a healthy crowd on a sodden night at Yarrow Stadium.
Taranaki fullback Codey Rei kicked the hosts to a 6-0 lead at half-time, before Ahsee Tuala and Baden Kerr kicked three penalty goals to put the Steelers ahead. Marty McKenzie levelled the scores with just seconds remaining before Kerr missed a drop kick to at the end of the scrappy affair.
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