Northland v Manawatu
23 – 28
The Turbos have defeated Northland 28-23 to open their campaign, a victory that comes with the extra cherry of being on the road, as the first weekend of the 2014 ITM Cup came to a close.
Manawatu continued their strong recent record against the Taniwha, even at the end of the first half it would have been difficult to wager a winner.
Another healthy crowd was on hand, but they would have been initially disappointed as the first 35 minutes saw the team’s trade five penalty goals.
It was a tight affair where both sides made simple errors, while nerves, perhaps responsible for this, led to the sides playing careful controlled rugby early, rather than the expansive play that was still to come.
Both outfits were looking to move the ball – early days but it seems as if this may be the trend of the competition after seven matches have been played over four days to commence the pride of New Zealand’s domestic competition.
At halftime it was 9-6 to Manawatu, with Daniel Hawkins and Matt Wright kicking penalties for the hosts, while the Turbos relied on the boot of Jade Te Rure.
The second half was a different affair.
Whatever the coaches said at halftime worked, the handling and execution seemed to go up a level or three.
Number eight Antonio Kirikiri scored in the 47th minute, before the Taniwha roared into action.
Tries to Filipo Nakosi and Sonatane Tokula, within roughly ten minutes of each other, gave Northland a 23-14 lead and it looks as if they might be able to close out the game.
However with 13 minutes on the clock, Manawatu found another level.
They were running with the same electricity that Turbos teams have relied on in years past.
Hamish Northcott and Callum Gibbins would score in a dramatic close to the game, where 36 points where registered in a final 40 minutes a few notches up on the chess like drama of the opening half.
Next up Northland host their first Premiership opponent of the season with Wellington due to play at Toll Stadium – a bumper fortnight for locals – while Manawatu will welcome another traditional big gun with Auckland arriving in Palmerston North.
Tries: Kirikiri, Northcott, Gibbins
Cons: Rure (2)
Pens: Rure (3)