Stuart Whitaker is a sports reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and a general reporter for the Bay News.

U19 tournament: Bay can't deny Counties

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ACCURATE: Reece MacDonald from Arataki scored 38 points for the Bay of Plenty in three games at the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament.
ACCURATE: Reece MacDonald from Arataki scored 38 points for the Bay of Plenty in three games at the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament.

Bay of Plentycouldn't stop Counties Manukau going back-to-back in the second-tier Michael Jones Trophy at the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament in Taupo.

Bay of Plenty went into the game seeking revenge for a 27-13 loss in the seeding game between the two sides in August, and had beaten North Harbour 39-31 and Hawkes Bay 31-8 on the way to the final. Counties Manukau had run in three tries to overcome Tasman 22-11 to secure their place.

The final score of 35-20 belied what was, for much of the 70 minutes of play, a close affair, with Bay of Plenty twice taking the lead during the second half.

Counties opened the scoring when no 8 Viliame Taulami broke a tackle inside his own 22 and showed extraordinary pace to score at the other end. Orbyn Leger converted.

Taulami was again causing problems for the Bay defence 12 minutes later, making the break that give his side the field position to pass the ball out to centre Salimoni Tukania who scored on the right.

As conditions improved and the Bay began to bring their backs into the game, Brad Armstong and Josh Honey put the Bay side in a great position. When Counties were penalised, the Bay secured the ball from the lineout and, with the momentum of several drives, 125kg substitute prop Sammi Veikoso went over.

Reece MacDonald converted from out on the left to bring his points total for the tournament to 30 and making the half time score 12-7.

Bay of Plenty put themselves even closer when MacDonald kicked a penalty in the first minute of the second half and he then put his side 13-12 in front in the 44th minute.

Counties hit back from a 5m scrum after MacDonald's clearing kick from behind the try line was charged down, the try being awarded by the TMO. Arataki's Paea Lavaka showed his strength to go over after the Bay lineout following a penalty with MacDonald again accurate and the lead once more changed hands.

It was short lived, though, and a trio of Leger penalties put Counties eight points in front.

When the Bay lost a lineout and Tukania scored his second, a fine solo effort, the chance of another comeback seemed remote and eventually impossible.

MacDonald added 10 points to his tournament score, bringing it to 38 in three games.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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