Waikato 17 v 46 Taranaki
The Amber and Blacks have put together an emphatic display to earn their maiden win of the 2014 ITM Cup campaign, defeating a willing but outclassed Waikato 46-17 to record their first victory over the Mooloo since 2011, and put together their highest score since 2008.
Waikato had their moments, especially early in the second half when two quick tries threatened the comeback.
However eventually it was Taranaki, clearly stung by the fact that they haven’t been able to register a win yet in 2014, who were the deserved winner.
Led by James Broadhurst up front, the visitor’s pack was a terrifying sight at stages, shunting the younger Waikato pack backwards, while the soft hands of the Amber and Black forwards allowed them to play the game at good speed.
The Mooloo, as they have all season, looked quite the attacking side, but struggled when Taranaki’s forwards imposed themselves on proceedings – knocking Waikato down to sixth on the Premiership table.
Marty McKenzie and Wharenui Hawera traded early penalties before the first of eight tries was scored.
Waisake Naholo, part of a heavyweight Amber and Black back division that caused constant issues for the Mooloo defence, scored the first five points in the 19th minute.
Ten minutes later McKenzie, yet another of a long line of quality New Zealand first five-eighths in operation, added another try after confirmation from the TMO.
Not only were Taranaki moving forward, but were embellishing their work with quality in the wide spaces.
McKenzie would score another and add a conversion to make it 27-3 at halftime.
Waikato and former All Blacks Sevens speedster Declan O’Donnell, playing with the sort of enthusiasm this young Mooloo team is clearly trying to enforce, made it a perfect start in the second half with well taken try in the 42nd minute.
Another to Joe Webber five minutes later, and suddenly it was 17-27 and game on.
However Taranaki had other ideas, stretching the lead again when Jackson Ormond scored in the 55th minute, after the tourists had spent several putting the Mooloo revival down.
Further tries to Seta Tamanivalu and a second to Naholo only served to demonstrate the strike power of Taranaki that hadn’t been sighted yet in the competition – a good sign as they return home to host Bay of Plenty.
Waikato, now with two losses after that stunning defeat of Wellington, play North Harbour away next.
Tries: O’Donnell, Webber
Cons: Hawera (2)
Tries: Naholo (2), McKenzie (2), Ormond, Tamanivalu
Cons: McKenzie (5)
Pens: McKenzie (2)