Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Turbos in cruise control

Manawatu 33
Northland 20

James Oliver of Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images
James Oliver of Manawatu. Photo / Getty Images

Sometimes getting straight back on the field after a heavy loss is the best therapy and so it proved for Manawatu against Northland in Whangarei tonight.

It was their first win of the season, but the Turbos looked shellshocked on Sunday during their eight-try mauling at the hands of Auckland, and in the bowels of Eden Park afterwards still looked lost as to how they could fix their leaky defence in only a few days.

From where they were sitting, fellow championship team Northland presented a fearsome prospect given they were at home for the first time of the season and backing up from a remarkable upset victory over Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday.

In the end it was ridiculously easy for Manawatu, who did at Toll Stadium what they couldn't do against Auckland - namely tackle and get their dangerous backs Tamasi Cama, Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Craig Clare into the game. By contrast, Northland centre Rene Ranger, a former All Black, could do little to stop the rot until after the hooter when he scored a consolation try.

Manawatu scored three tries in the first half through prop Grant Polson, centre Jason Emery and wing Clare, who earlier had one ruled out after putting a foot in touch. When Clare did get over the line it was a beauty, his canny reading of a clever Cama chip on the stroke of halftime pushing the score out to 20-6 and way beyond the Taniwha.

Northland coach Adrian Ferris, fresh from giving his players a burst during the break, was in no doubt what they needed to do in his interview with Sky TV, saying his men needed to "harden up, stop being soft, and get stuck into them".

Prop Justin Davies may have taken the advice the wrong way, however, his high tackle on Emery soon after the re-start resulting in a yellow card and another three points for the Turbos.

Co-captain Bryce Williams followed suit on the assistant referee's advice, though the lock could be forgiven for feeling hard done by given he appeared to be indulging in a spot of off-the-ball wrestling.

Replacement wing George Tilsey scored the bonus point try, which owed much to a kind bounce and the pace, presence of mind and centering kick of hooker Rob Foreman.

Manawatu's dodgy defence did return - blindside flanker Daniel Faleafa strolling through two tackle attempts in the final minutes to score and then Ranger diving over - but it was too late for Northland, who return to Toll Stadium to play fellow strugglers North Harbour on Sunday.

The Turbos are also back in action on Sunday when they take on Tasman in Palmerston North.

Manawatu 33 (Grant Polson, Jason Emery, Craig Clare, George Tilsey tries; Craig Clare 2 cons, 3 pens)
Northland 20 (Daniel Faleafa, Rene Ranger tries; Ash Moeke 2 cons, 2 pens)
HT: 20-6

- APNZ

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