Taranaki put the disappointment of their Ranfurly Shield draw behind them with a 30-19 bonus-point win over Manawatu in atrocious conditions at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being outscored two tries to one in the opening 40 minutes, it was the visitors who took a 16-15 halftime lead thanks to 11 first half points to Otere Black and a try to Ambrose Curtis.
While the hosts were able to score two tries in the final quarter of the match, they kept their opponents to just a Black penalty in the second half.
Atrocious conditions meant tackling and scrummaging proved to be difficult for both sides, as both sides elected for the aerial route.
Taranaki’s preference for phase play saw them continue to heap pressure on their opponents. Ultimately it was their composure in the final 10 minutes that saw them stretch their lead past the converted try.
The win sees the Bulls move into second place in the Premiership, ahead of Counties Manukau on goal differential. Manawatu, meanwhile, remain in third place in the Championship.
Black’s first points of the afternoon saw him reach 50 for the season, as the Turbos made the perfect start with a penalty in the opening two minutes.
Constant forays on the Manawatu tryline eventually paid dividends when Reuben O’Neill dotted down for the side’s first try of the afternoon.
It went from bad to worse for the Turbos when the impressive Hayden Bedwell-Curtis was unlucky to be penalised after stripping the ball clean. Marty McKenzie’s ensuing kick got the hosts close to the try-line, and following a line-out drive it was Kylem O’Donnell who sniped his way across the blindside to boost the side’s lead.
However, Curtis’ try five minutes from halftime gave the side an opportunity to wrestle back the lead, and Black duly obliged for a 13-12 lead. Both sides traded penalties late in the half, and the visitors took a 16-15 lead at halftime.
With 13 minutes on the clock, Taranaki wing Latu Vaeno ensured the lead changed for the fourth time in the match with a sliding effort.
Manawatu responded almost immediately through Black’s boot to reduce the deficit to 19-20 with nine minutes to play.
But in the end it was the superb Rhys Marshall whose try from a lineout drive gave the hosts the perfect way to bounce back from their Ranfurly Shield disappointment.
Bedwell-Curtis had a tremendous impact on the game, while Marshall was everywhere after being called into action in the first 25 minutes.
Taranaki 30 (Rhys Marshall, Latu Vaeno, Kylem O’Donnell, Reuben O’Neill tries; Marty McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen)
Manawatu 19 (Ambrose Curtis try; Otere Black con, 4 pen)