Canterbury were made to work for their sixth straight ITM Cup victory of the season as they edged Counties Manukau 28-20 on Friday.
Canterbury were made to work for their sixth straight ITM Cup triumph of the season as they edged out Counties Manukau 28-20 at ECOlight Stadium.
Despite an excellent second-half showing, the Steelers will wonder what might have been after this loss as they left several points out on the Pukekohe field via missed shots at goal while close calls on the Canterbury line denied them.
But they only have their selves to blame as they continue to sit on just one win from their opening six games of 2014 due to a lack of clinical edge.
Canterbury have had no such problems as they opened the scoring on ten minutes when their impressive line-out drive saw Matt Todd over.
The Steelers did reply through the boot of Tim Nanai-Williams from distance but that came either side of missed attempts from Ahsee Tuala and the aforementioned full-back that would haunt them.
Johnny McNicholl made it 14-3 with Tom Taylor's conversion in a slick try that saw handling of a team oozing confidence and why wouldn't they with a 100 percent record so far in 2014.
Taylor added six more points to send his side in 20-6 up, with Tuala firing a kick of his own.
Counties emerged in better form and their bench would play a factor in making Canterbury sweat, with Sherwin Stowers, Michael Stanley and Sione Anga'aelangi impressive.
Frank Halai would get them moving though with a try on 52 minutes that made it 13-25 – Willi Heinz having crossed five minutes earlier – before sustained pressure on the Canterbury line was relieved when home second-row Sikeli Nabou saw yellow for throwing a punch.
But the Counties onslaught would soon be back in full swing as Rey Lee-lo was denied a try by the TMO after an inconclusive replay before Halai responded with a length of the field score that cut the scoreline to just eight points following Taylor's wise penalty goal.
The game, however, ended with Canterbury on an attack as they looked for the try bonus-point. Unfortunately for them, milestone man Adam Whitelock was hauled down short as they would settle for four points, something one imagines they would be more than happy to take.
Tries: Halai 2
Con: Stanley, Stowers
Pen: Nanai-Williams, Tuala
Tries: Todd, McNicholl, Heinz
Con: Taylor 2
Pen: Taylor 3
Counties Manukau: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams (c), 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rey Lee-lo, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Ahsee Tuala, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Dan Hyatt, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sikeli Nabou, 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 Michael Stanley, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Canterbury: 15 Richie Mo'unga, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Siate Tokolahi.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Mitchell Drummond, 21 Brett Mather, 22 Luteru Laulala.
Referee: Glen Jackson