Rugby: Manawatu squeeze past Northland

By Campbell Burnes

Callum Gibbins of Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images.
Callum Gibbins of Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images.

Manawatu 28
Northland 23

There was plenty of froth and bubble to match the frequent music as the visitors came home late in this tight, yet open, Championship clash in Whangarei.

It was as though both teams decided there was little to be gained by kicking the ball.

The Turbos are not renowned as a defensive-oriented side, while the Taniwha have some pace in their threequarters, but could not always maximise this speed. It was a frustrating watch, as neither side seemed to want to seize the initiative. Errors abounded, but decisive were two late tries to Manawatu, the second via skipper Callum Gibbins off a lineout drive to reclaim the lead.

The first spell was a tryless affair, punctuated by some rasping defence and plenty of width on attack. Jade Te Rure kicked three from three off the tee for the Turbos as the visitors took a narrow 9-6 lead into the sheds.

The Northland loose trio of captain Cam Eyre, Jack Ram, resplendent in his liquorice all-sorts headgear for the first 40, and Dan Pryor, made a nuisance of themselves, and were able to work off some penetrative running by left wing Jone Macilai or fullback Matt Wright. They were often patient on attack, but lacked the clinical finishing touch. The Turbos, conversely, looked better at the set-piece, but could not get enough ball to the flypaper hands and jinky feet of centre Jason Emery.

Northland scored first, via the boot of Hawkins, in the second stanza, but then Manawatu No 8 Antonio Kiri Kiri burst through for the first try in the corner, confirmed by the TMO. The Taniwha briefly threatened to break free and feed more ball to Macilai, but each time the attack foundered on a mistake or poor option. That was until Wright showed his elusive qualities to put right wing Filipo Nakosi over. It was game on at 16-14. Halfback Sonatane Takalua, who was called up to the Blues in 2014, dived over, but the Turbos' replay, to second five Hamish Northcott, was swift and deadly, before Gibbins' killer blow.

The Taniwha are back at home on Saturday against a Wellington Lions side smarting from their six-try home defeat to Waikato. The Turbos will host Auckland on Sunday in Palmerston North.

Manawatu (Antonio Kiri Kiri, Hamish Northcott, Callum Gibbins tries; Jade Te Rure 2 con, 3 pen) Northland (Filipo Nakosi, Sonatane Takalua tries; Dan Hawkins 2 con, 2 pen, Matt Wright pen) HT: 9-6 Manawatu

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