Taranaki took a step closer to booking a place in the semi-finals of the ITM Cup as a late surge gave them a 30-16 win over Manawatu in New Plymouth on Saturday.
In a tightly contested affair if was not until the last 10 minutes that Taranaki secured the win. In the end Craig Clarke's men proved too strong for a brave Manawatu side as they out-scored them four tries to one.
Scott Ireland, Andre Taylor, Jayden Hayward and Beauden Barrett dotted down for the home side while Hamish Gosling went over for the visitors.
Taranaki grabbed the early advantage as fullback Ireland went over in the left-hand corner after 12 minutes to cap off an excellent movement after lock James Broadhurst had made the initial break.
The home side threatened to run away with things when they scored their second try of the evening when George Pisi set-up Taylor for a score in the 20th minute. Willie Ripia's conversion making it 12-0.
Cruden gave the visitors their first points of the evening with a penalty into the wind, but Ripia cancelled out his effort with a penalty of his own a few minutes later and Taranaki took a 15-3 lead into the break as they enjoyed the better of territory and possession in the first period.
Dave Rennie would have had some stern words for his charges at the interval as they came out firing on all cylinders in the second half.
After a long period of pressure on the Taranaki line, Manawatu No 8 Gosling forced his way over to put his side back in with a chance. Cruden made no mistake with the conversion from the sideline to make it 15-10.
Cruden took his side to within two points of the hosts with another penalty in the 56th minute.
Taylor and Cruden then exchanged penalties to take the score to 18-16 and set up a tense final 10 minutes.
However, it was Taranaki who finished the stronger of the two teams as Tyson Keats picked up from a scrum and sent Hayward into a gap as the centre dotted down seven minutes from time. Taylor converted it to make it 25-16.
Barrett then sealed the victory with a fantastic individual effort as he weaved through the Manawatu defence to score a brilliant try from 60 metres out and ensure his side a 30-16 win.
Tries: Ireland, Taylor, Hayward, Barrett
Cons: Ripia, Taylor
Pens: Ripia, Taylor
Pen: Cruden 3
Taranaki: 15 Scott Ireland, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 George Pisi, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Chris Walker, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Craig Clarke (C), 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Carl Carmichael.
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Shane Cleaver, 18 Blade Thomson, 19 Johnny Willis, 20 Brett Goodin, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Isaia Tuifua.
Manawatu: 15 Craig Clare, 14 Shannon Paku, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Francis Bryant, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hamish Gosling, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 James Oliver, 5 Fraser Stone, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Grant Polson.
Replacements: 16 Sean O'Connor, 17 Donal McNamara, 18 Reece Robinson, 19 Doug Tietjens, 20 Karl Bryson, 21 Isaac Thompson, 22 Johnny Leota.