Rugby: Counties coach - Players need to temper their excitement

By Campbell Burnes

Sherwin Stowers of Counties Manukau looks on during the round five Mitre 10 Cup match between Counties Manukau and Taranaki. Photo /Getty
Sherwin Stowers of Counties Manukau looks on during the round five Mitre 10 Cup match between Counties Manukau and Taranaki. Photo /Getty

Darryl Suasua is not trying to hinder his Steelers' flair, but he would like to see them "temper their excitement" to avoid costly turnovers.

Last night the Steelers coach watched Counties Manukau drop their second consecutive match by one point after a stilted first spell, a strong second stanza and then seeing Joe Reynolds spray the final, relatively straightforward, kick just to the left of the uprights in Pukekohe, handing the visitors from Taranaki a 30-29 victory in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership.

"I'd like to think we are further along than we are (2-3). It's just that consistency. When we play well, we are good, but we get carried away. You don't want to quell the excitement, but sometimes you just have to temper it a bit," says Suasua.

He, like many Steelers rugby people, found the one point loss hard to take.

"What do you say? It was an almost identical situation to the other night and we ended up with a kick to finish it off, but didn't quite get there.

"The first half was pretty poor. It looked like we lacked a bit of enthusiasm. It was a matter of getting that energy and we came out well, but we can't just play half a game," he says.

But half a game was almost enough, after some stern words at oranges, and though they lost some direction when first five Piers Francis departed with a nasty torn ear, the forwards lifted appreciably, bringing more physicality and accuracy. Shelving the loose play still allowed the backs to run freely and wing Sherwin Stowers was able to sprint clear for one memorable score, while captain Jimmy Tupou set up Richard Judd for the tryscoring bonus point. However, Tupou then limped off with what looked a bad knee injury, so he and Francis must be in some doubt for Sunday's clash with Auckland at Eden Park.

Reynolds had kicked three good goals, including a boomer from nearly halfway, but will be disappointed with his final miss. Suasua was, rightly, not attaching any blame to his man.

While the injuries to Tupou and Francis were worrying, wing Toni Pulu made a sound return, and props Pauliasi Manu and Nepo Laulala may not be far away from early comebacks, though Sean Bagshaw and Kalolo Tuiloma have been more than adequate stand-ins. Hooker Hika Elliot was hurt in the loss to the Lions, continuing his stop-start season.

Taranaki breathed a sigh of relief, having scored one less try than the Steelers. They leaned heavily on the skills of No 10 Marty McKenzie, allied with some yeoman work in the pack from the likes of prop Mitch Graham, lock Leighton Price, who gave a wondrous offload to Sean Wainui for the opening try, flanker and skipper Mitchell Crosswell, who scored their final try, and No 8 Toa Halafihi.

They rise to 4-1, second behind Canterbury on the Premiership standings, and will be eyeing up Sunday's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato, having last held the Log o' Wood in 2012.

Suasua is wary of what Auckland might do on Sunday, especially coming off a 35-32, rare home defeat to Waikato.

"Auckland are like a volcano, ready to erupt. They've got the players on paper and sooner or later they are going to hit their straps," he says.

Stopping blockbusting loosie Akira Ioane will be top priority, but minimising handling errors and turnovers might be a close second for the Steelers.

- NZ Herald

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