Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Rugby: Taranaki loosen up for Shield challenge

Taranaki took a small step towards preserving their premiership status and building hope for their Ranfurly Shield challenge on Sunday.

Jamison Gibson-Park of Taranaki. Photo / Getty Images
Jamison Gibson-Park of Taranaki. Photo / Getty Images

Taranaki 23
Hawkes Bay 10

Taranaki took a small step towards preserving their premiership status and building hope for their Ranfurly Shield challenge on Sunday.

Taranaki's 23-10 ITM Cup win over Hawkes Bay in New Plymouth tonight was a solid effort in rough conditions, helped by opponents who lost their way with the wind advantage in the second half.

Taranaki face shield holders Counties Manukau on Sunday, and while the old log has zipped around the unions this year, Taranaki's dour form so far suggests Pukekohe might break the shield's current rapid movement streak.

Taranaki didn't break the shackles tonight, but they did find an encouraging spirit and produced the one wonderful attack of the night finished by Opa Peleseuma, who slid the final 10 metres.

A smart first half try from Taranaki halfback Jamison Gibson-Park, who ran down a vacant channel after a scrum, also helped separate the sides.

A first half drenched in rain, two struggling teams - the omens weren't good, especially when you consider the home team only averaged a tick over 10 points a game prior to this crossover clash.

But the omens were wrong to a degree.

Maybe provincial battlers are made for tough conditions. It concentrates the mind, limits the options, and lets the bruisers get on with smacking in to each other, getting up, and doing it again.

Hawkes Bay held sway into the wind for much of the half, with the odd inside pass the only flamboyance. But Taranaki roared into action around the half hour mark, mounted a wave of pressure, and were rewarded with a 13-3 lead at the break.

Considering what had gone before, Peleseuma's try was like finding a gold nugget in a haystack. The long range move saw Jackson Ormond tiptoe up the sideline, and Peleseuma won a lenient call by the match officials, who ruled no double movement in the slippery conditions. Hawkes Bay finally found their mojo again, right on fulltime, and barged over for a try before the game ended in a bit of a shambles.

Decades ago, this sort of game was standard fare, adorned in mud. But bash and barge football can stand the test of time now and then on the lush, well drained fields of today.

Taranaki 23 (Jamison Gibson-Park, Opa Peleseuma tries; Andre Taylor 3 pen, 2 con), Hawkes Bay 10 (Mark Atkins try; Regis Lespinas con, pen). Halftime: 13-3.

Confidence booster

Hurricane Andre Taylor, whose Super 15 career didn't kick on this year, helped lead the way for Taranaki playing at centre.

The sky's the limit

Young giant Johan Schoonbee, the 2.07m former South African junior, went gangbusters in the lineout for Hawkes Bay.

- NZ Herald

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