A late Marty Mckenzie penalty secured Taranaki a 9-9 draw against Counties in their ITM Cup opener in New Plymouth.
A late Marty Mckenzie penalty secured Taranaki a 9-9 draw against Counties Manukau in their ITM Cup opener in New Plymouth on Thursday.
As the scoreline suggests, this match was evenly contested and the result was in the balance up until its closing stages.
McKenzie's penalty – off the inside of an upright – came in the 79th minute after Counties were penalised for a scrum infringement.
Five minutes earlier, Counties' replacement fly-half Baden Kerr thought he had won the game for the visitors with a penalty from about 42 metres out.
Despite fighting back to claim the draw, the Amber and Blacks will be frustrated with their effort as they came closest to crossing the whitewash midway through the second half.
First, new prop Angus Ta'avao crossed the Counties try-line in the 56th minute. But his effort was disallowed for a double-movement and shortly afterwards Sione Lea thought he had got the crucial five-pointer but, after checking with the television match official, referee Nick Briant ruled that it was inconclusive whether the ball was grounded over the try-line.
Taranaki did most of the playing in the opening half and were leading 6-0 by the half-hour mark via two penalties from Codey Rei.
Shortly before half-time, he had a chance to extend the home side's lead – after Maama Vaipulu was penalised for breaking away to early at a scrum inside his 22 – but his place-kick veered to the right of the uprights.
This meant that Taranaki held a slender 6-0 lead at the interval but the visitors reduced the deficit via a Ahsee Tuala penalty 10 minutes after the restart.
Tuala was iimmediately replaced by Kerr, who added the first of his two penalties, in the 63rd minute which levelled the score at 6-6.
Kerr then thought he had won the game for Counties, with his long-range effort from the kicking tee, before McKenzie clinched the draw for the hosts shortly before the end with his three-pointer.
Pens: Rei 2, McKenzie
For Counties Manukau:
Pens: Tuala, Kerr 2
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.
Referee: Nick Briant
By David Skippers