With an unbelievable ITM Cup upset on the cards, Manawatu threw away a commanding 18-point lead to hand Canterbury their first win of the season.
With an unbelievable upset on the cards, Manawatu threw away a commanding 18-point lead to hand Canterbury their first ITM Cup win of the season.
The defending champions trailed for much of the match but took advantage of a late sin-binning to steal a 27-26 win in Palmerston North on Thursday.
Playing with plenty flair, Manawatu had the bonus point wrapped up in the 44th minute of the match and Canterbury looked dead and buried. However, the Turbos couldn't hammer the final nail in the visitors' coffin thanks to three missed penalty attempts in the final 10 minutes.
Instead, the home side had to settle for two points after scoring four tries and losing within seven but it should have been so much more.
The Turbos let Canterbury know they were a force to be reckoned from the off after touching down for the first try of the match. Scrum-half Aaron Smith fed the ball out from scrum, passing well, allowing Sevens star Lote Raikabula to slip through Canterbury defences to the try-line.
Manawatu full-back Craig Clare converted for a 7-0 lead after five minutes played.
Canterbury hit back after full-back Sean Maitland got himself on the outside of the Manawatu defence following a line-out to score out wide. Colin Slade missed his conversion attempt, and the Turbos held their lead.
It wouldn't last long however after Slade made up for his earlier miss to put Canterbury in front 8-7 in the 19th minute after Clare's chance at capturing three points went wide.
Raikabula was in the thick of things once again and scored his second five-pointer of the match as a result of exceptional ball handling skills and insistent offensive playing. Clare pushed the conversion wide, but Manawatu led 12-8.
Turbos fly-half Tomasi Cama then produced the try of the night. The ball was freed to him after another forward surge by the Manwatu forwards, before a neat grubber kick through the Canterbury defence was gathered and put down beside the post.
With the Shannon Paku conversion, Manawatu led 19-8 and they went into the changing rooms looking well on the way to repeating their 2008 opening round 25-24 triumph over Canterbury.
Four minutes into the second half, Turbos winger Casey Stone made a solid run through several failed Canterbury tackles that resulted in another try – Manwatu's fourth – with Paku converting to make it 26-8.
Manawatu captain Nick Crosswell then injured himself and was forced off the field with younger brother Mitchell taking his place.
Soon after that, Manawatu had lock Reece Robinson sin-binned for the remainder of the match with a seemingly unprovoked red card and it all went down hill from there.
Canterbury had their second try in the 53rd minute through replacement centre Robbie Fruean after Paku raced up and missed an intercept. Slade converted from wide out to close the gap to 26-15.
Wing Telusa Veainu was the next player to score after Canterbury's multiple attempts at the try-line, which was converted again by Slade, putting his team back in contention for the lead.
Paku was subbed off in the 66th minute and the errors started creeping, with several missed tackles leading to Fruean's second try and Canterbury's shift into the lead.
With ten minutes of the match left to play, the Turbos seemed unable to pull a complete play together – appearing inconsistent and undoubtedly under pressure. A penalty kick from 22m out and an opportunity to take back the lead was missed, leaving the final score in favour of Canterbury.
Tries: Raikabula 2, Cama, Stone
Cons: Paku 2, Clare
Tries: Fruean 2, Maitland, Veainu
Cons: Slade 2
Manawatu: 15 Craig Clare, 14 Casey Stone,13 Shannon Paku, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Lote Raikabula, 10 Tomasi Cama, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nick Crosswell (c), 7 Doug Tietjens, 6 James Oliver, 5 Reece Robinson, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Grant Polson,
Replacements: 16 Sean O'Connor, 17 Shane Kingsland, 18 Fraser Stone, 19 Mitchell Crosswell, 20 Karl Bryson, 21 Tevita Taufui, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
Canterbury: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Tu Umaga-Marshall, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Sam Monaghan, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Matt George, 8 Ash Parker, 7 George Whitelock (c), 6 Matt Todd, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Pete Borlase, 2 Steve Fualau, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Paul Ngauamo, 17 Andrew Olorenshaw, 18 Rob Verbakel, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Robbie Flynn, Robbie Fruean.
Referee: Richard Kelly