Taranaki put in a solid performance to beat Counties Manukau 28-19 in New Plymouth on Sunday, a win that takes them into third spot on the ITM Cup ladder.
Crucial errors at crucial times were the key factor in the Steelers loss,which now sees them on 19 competition points and sitting in seventh place.
Counties Manukau were the first to score when Tim Nanai-Williams kicked an early penalty to start the game. Then block-busting prop Simon Lemalu scored the game's opening try when he gathered the ball out from a ruck and raced 15 meters to the line.
With Nanai Williams adding the conversion and the score 10-0, it was the perfect start for the visitors.
A Willie Ripia penalty opened Taranaki's account before Nanai Williams kicked his third. However when wing David Smith scored after a solid Taranaki build-up and Ripia nailed the sideline conversion to make the score 13-10, there were signs that the home side was getting the better of the Steelers.
This was further highlighted when a break out from beneath their posts saw George Pisi break the Steelers' line and with a fine kick for the corner, he was able to see Kurt Baker outpace the Steelers defence and score.
Thankfully for Counties Manukau, Nanai Williams kicked his third penalty of the half so that his side took a slender 16-15 lead into the sheds at half-time.
After the restart, Counties Manukau had their chances to score but did not take them. Instead Taranaki scored their third try of the game when halfback Tyson Keats scampered over after his forwards had driven the ball close to the line.
Nanai Williams added his fourth penalty of the game to keep the Steelers in the game. Sadly mistakes at two line-outs close to the Taranaki line curtailed genuine try-scoring opportunities.
Instead Taranaki played for territory, Ripia kicked two further penalties and the game ended with the home side winning quite comfortably.
Tries: Smith, Baker, Keats
Cons: Ripia 2
Pens: Ripia 2
For Counties Manukau:
Cons: Nanai Williams
Pens: Nanai Williams 4
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 George Pisi, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Ben Souness, 7 Chris Walker, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Craig Clarke (captain), 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Mahonori Schwalger, 1 Shane Cleaver.
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 Kane Barrett, 19 Samuela Vunisa, 20 Brett Goodin, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Isaia Tuifua.
Counties Manukau: 15 Tim Nanai Williams, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 James Semple, 9 August Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Pepa Koloamatangi, 6 Ronald Raaymakers, 5 Jamie Chipman, 4 Taiasina Tuifua, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Grant Henson, 1 Simon Lemalu.Replacements: 16 Mark Price, 17 Graham Dewes, 18 Sikeli Nabou, 19 Mark Selwyn, 20 Samisoni Fisilau, 21 Rey Lee-Lo, 22 David Raikuna.