The opening match of the 2014 ITM Cup has seen Counties-Manukau stage a dramatic fight back to record a draw with Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
Wet weather and challenging conditions conspired to make the match an awkward affair at times, and it was Taranaki would dominate the first 40 minutes, although they wouldn’t score a try to make their lead count.
The Amber and Blacks were patient and would have been angry to let the Steelers come back into the contest after playing such a strong game early.
When the Steelers had the ball they looked the goods, but the hosts were playing with a forward orientated blueprint that was earning them constant metres and causing the Counties tacklers to be thrust backwards.
The first half saw the heavens open which would deny Counties the chance to play their preferred ball in hand approach.
Taranaki meanwhile were happy to wrap it up in the pack.
The Steelers, who were held scoreless in the first half, had faint moments but it was Taranaki that had the edge, although the home team were hardly being dominant.
The home team, who missed 11 tackles to Counties three in the opening 40 minutes, were keeping the Amber and Blacks from scoring a try but were conceding precious possession early.
A scoreless first half would give way to local fullback Codey Rei kicking over the contests and tournament’s maiden points in the 22nd minute, adding another six minutes later to give Taranaki a narrow lead.
As the opening stanza came to a close, that slim lead would suffice as the sides would enter the changing rooms with Taranaki in the lead 6-0.
In the second half Counties first five-eighth Ahsee Tuala would strike over three points in the 53rd minute, with Baden Kerr adding two more between the 67th and 73rd minute.
A dour draw completed …
Pens: Rei (2), McKenzie
Pens: Kerr (2), Tuala
Taranaki: 15 Codey Rei, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 James Marshall (c), 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Riki Hoeata, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Sione Lea, 18 Leighton Price, 19 Doug Tietjens, 20 Warwick Lahmert, 21 Jackson Ormond, 22 Beaudein Waaka
Counties Manukau: 15 Sherwin Stowers, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Sam Vaka, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Ahsee Tuala, 9 Augustine Pulu (c), 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Maama Vaipulu, 6 Dan Hyatt, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jarrod Firth, 2 Suliasi Taufalele, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Sione Anga’aelangi, 17 Sean Bagshaw, 18 Viliami Rarasea, 19 Onosa’i Auva’a, 20 Kane Hancy, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rey Lee-Lo.