Rugby: Manawatu continue fine season

By Daniel Richardson

Culum Retallick. Photo / APN
Culum Retallick. Photo / APN

Manawatu's ITM Cup campaign just keeps getting better.

After beating Northland in week one and tipping over Wellington last Friday - forget the blemish against Auckland in between - the Turbos made it three from four as they edged Bay of Plenty 29-27 in Palmerston North tonight.

Manawatu's early season form have them pegged as a potential playoff side in a congested Championship division and with a committed forward pack and entertaining backline, who would bet against them?

Openside flanker Callum Gibbins was immense for the Turbos, while fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder impressed as young first-five Otere Black showed plenty of poise. Black's precision goal-kicking was the difference as he added 14 points from his right boot.

Bay of Plenty, who have dropped four straight this year, were in the game for the first 20 minutes and held their own throughout most of the opening spell but tries to Nathan Tudreu and Antonio Kiri Kiri gave the home side a 21-12 lead at halftime.

The second half was about Manawatu finding a way to protect their lead, which they managed to do via a try to Nathan Tudreu.

Despite the win, Manawatu coach Jason O'Halloran, who sets high standards for his men, may have been concerned with their ball security, which wasn't where it should have been.

Two late Bay of Plenty tries brought them within inches of a thrilling comeback and despite suffering another defeat, they did manage to salvage two bonus points. The victory catapulted Manawatu to the top of the Championship division.

Bay of Plenty will have a chance to finally get a win under their belts when they host North Harbour - who are also yet to post a win this year - in Rotorua on Sunday.

Manawatu will continue their promising campaign with a home outing against Counties Manukau on Sunday.

BOP's demise: After being relegated last year, the wheels have fallen off for Bay of Plenty. They've dropped their first four games of the 2014 campaign and need to change things quickly.

Close call: Manawatu have a habit of putting their fans through turmoil during the final stages and they did the same again here as they nearly coughed up a 14-point lead.

Manawatu 29 (Nathan Tudreu, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Newton Tudreu tries; Otere Black 4 pen, con)
Bay of Plenty 27 (Siegfried Fishiihoi, Culum Retallick, Mike Kainga, Joe Royal tries; Dan Hollinshead con, Byron McGuigan pen, Te Aihe Toma con)
Halftime: 21-12.

- APNZ

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