Rugby: Manawatu steal Mitre 10 Cup thriller

By Niall Anderson

Manawatu 34 Southland 31
Otere Black of Manawatu kicked the winning penalty. Photo / Getty
Otere Black of Manawatu kicked the winning penalty. Photo / Getty

So much for momentum.

After storming back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to tie the game in the final minutes, Southland saw their thrilling comeback culled by an Otere Black penalty after the hooter as Manawatu clung to a 34-31 Mitre 10 Cup victory.

Southland had put together a superb second half performance, and looked to have snared a worthy draw after a converted Bill Fukofuka try in the 79th minute brought them level.

As both teams searched for a winner, a Southland error was compounded by a penalty which saw Black bang one over from a tough angle in wet conditions and secure five competition points.

Manawatu are now two from two after beating Northland last week, mixing some stunning rugby with severe lapses in concentration in tight wins over the two worst teams from 2015.

Their best was epitomised by Ngani Laumape, with the former New Zealand Warriors winger finding increasing success with the oval ball, notching a hat-trick of tries.

A promising combination of stocky power and speed could see the 11-game Hurricane make a real mark in the code with a bit of added polish. He linked up well with fullback Jason Emery, as the Turbos scored three opportunistic first half tries through several sizzling counter-attacks.

Needing something special to make the game a contest, the Stags delivered. Two tries in the first five minutes of the second stanza immediately upped the stakes, while a reduced error rate stymied Manawatu's full-field creativity.

Fijian international prop Peni Ravai made a huge impact with his agility and speed after being introduced to the game at halftime, while first-five Wharenui Hawera proved safe as houses running the show with 16 points.

That point haul included a penalty from halfway and a sideline conversion of Fukofuka's effort as he put together a perfect goal-kicking night.

But just as Hawera seemed to be Southland's saviour, Manawatu bet on black and came out winners.

Manawatu 34 (Ngani Laumape 3, Callum Gibbins tries; Otere Black 4 cons, 2 pens)
Southland 31 (Mika Mafi, Junior Ngalaufe, Wharenui Hawera, Bill Fukofuka tries, Hawera four cons, pen)
Halftime: 24-0

- NZ Herald

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