Rugby: Shocking miss sees Counties lose heartbreaker

By Campbell Burnes

Taranaki 30 Counties Manukau 29
Augustine Pulu of Counties Manukau. Photo / Getty
Augustine Pulu of Counties Manukau. Photo / Getty

The Steelers' rollercoaster continues apace.

They roared back into their Premiership contest against Taranaki in Pukekohe with a sizzling second half to almost secure a comeback victory.

However, replacement back Joe Reynolds missed a late, pressure, 30m penalty goal for the Steelers which would have retaken the lead in the final seconds. Marty McKenzie had earlier nailed his third penalty goal, thus consigning the home side to their second one-point defeat in five days.

Loose forward Jordan Taufua kick-started the revival for his fifth try of the Mitre 10 Cup. He was typically energetic, while prop Sean Bagshaw carried often and well, as did centre Sam Vaka. Sherwin Stowers scooted 60m from a Vaka pass.

Flat, error-ridden and losing first five Pier Francis to a torn ear during a disappointing first stanza, the home team were under the knuckle from the Taranaki pack and the skills of McKenzie, who was full of guile with his feet and accuracy with his boot.

There would have been little for the Blues brains trust of Alistair Rogers and Tony Hanks, on hand, to enthuse over. The first half was a messy, slippery affair punctuated by a couple of sweet tries, the first to Steelers wing Sione Molia from a Francis kick-pass after a searing August Pulu break. McKenzie ran like his brother to set up fullback Stephen Perofeta for Taranaki's second. Pulu's kicking game, alas, was not as sharp as his running game.

Taranaki centre Sean Wainui scored in the second minute from a spectacular Mitch Crosswell offload. Crosswell's late second spell try allowed the visitors to regain a late lead and pour the pressure on the Steelers, eventually taking the win.

Counties Manukau are straight back into action on Sunday when they travel to Eden Park to face Auckland, while Taranaki face Waikato for the Ranfurly Shield later that day.

Taranaki 30 (Sean Wainui, Stephen Perofeta, Mitch Crosswell tries; Marty McKenzie 3 con, 3 pen)
Counties Manukau 29 (Sione Molia, Jordan Taufua, Sherwin Stowers, Richard Judd tries; Joe Reynolds 2 con, pen, Piers Francis con)
HT: 20-7 Taranaki

- NZ Herald

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