Rugby: Harbour edge Manawatu in close contest

By Campbell Burnes

North Harbour 29 Manawatu 25
Tevita Li of North Harbour scores a try in the Mitre 10 Cup match against Manawatu. Photo / photosport.nz
Tevita Li of North Harbour scores a try in the Mitre 10 Cup match against Manawatu. Photo / photosport.nz

This Mitre 10 Cup Championship clash was as even as the scoreline would suggest.

The upshot was that North Harbour remain fifth after not being able to secure the bonus point as the Turbos threw the kitchen sink at them in the closing seconds. The outpouring of relief was palpable as Harbour took their second, precious, victory.

North Harbour's first half rugby often matched their patchwork jerseys, but they deserved the 17-12 lead. If they could just hang into the ball in contact if in doubt rather than firing a speculator, that would help their cause immeasurably. But there were willing workers in the pack such as No 8 Murphy Taramai and lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and they again tackled accurately after losing James Parsons to injury.

They played the perfect first two minutes, which culminated in fullback Matt Duffie scoring from a Mark Telea thrust. But perfection doesn't last. Two minutes later Turbos second five Ngani Laumape was over, despite the pass from first five Otere Black being forward.

However, it was legal due to that absurd ruling that, if the hands show the pass goes back when it leaves the hand, it is kosher. Laumape's second was gifted, an intercept by Black from a Duffie pass. The result was five points 80m down the other end of the park.

Wing Tevita Li finished spectacularly in a move that started with a Bryn Gatland chip and regather. Li looked sharper and almost bagged a second from a kick through.

A lineout move paid dividends when Michael Little burst through from off the top ball. It all looked so good at times.

Manawatu are not a bad team, and have quality at 7-8-9-10. Halfback Jamie Booth, who once played at the East Coast Bays club when on Blues duty, was a spark for the Turbos until he left the field hurt. Some of their pack, such as locks Tom Parsons and the nomadic Kane Thompson are muscular and downright rugged. Wing Ambrose Curtis ran freely. Harbour simply could not shake them.

A feature of the match was the fact that both goalkickers slotted the last nine between them after missing the first four.

Both teams are back in action next Saturday, North Harbour in Otago and Manawatu hosting Canterbury.

In the Farah Palmer Cup curtainraiser, the Manawatu Cyclones edged the Harbour Hibiscus 29-24.

North Harbour 29 (Matt Duffie, Tevita Li, Michael Little tries; Bryn Gatland con, 4 pen)
Manawatu 25 (Ngani Laumape 2, Chris Eves tries; Otere Black 2 con, 2 pen) HT: 17-12

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