Rugby: Prop's hat-trick helps Counties down Waikato

By Campbell Burnes

Counties Manukau 35 Waikato 26
Counties Manukau ran in plenty of tries against Waikato. Photo / Getty
Counties Manukau ran in plenty of tries against Waikato. Photo / Getty

We all wondered what would happen if the Steelers uncorked an allround display.

We wonder no longer, though Waikato might still be wondering what hit them early in this Pukekohe Premiership derby.

The Steelers just ripped into the Ranfurly Shield holders in the set-pieces, and in the collisions, led by the indefatigable Jordan Taufua. In short, their forwards smashed the Mooloos. Were it not for some dusty handling at times by the Steelers, and a gritty comeback, the scoreline might have got ugly for the visitors.

As it was, the home side now shoot to the top of the Premiership ladder, with no less than eight bonus points, though they may surrender that lead dependent on Saturday results.

Steelers tighthead prop Kalolo Tuiloma, tipping the scales at 140kg, crossed for an astonishing hat-trick within the opening 16 minutes, the first time a prop has scored three tries in an NPC match since Wellington All Black Brian McGrattan in 1984.

But he was replaced at halftime with possible concussion after looking listless for some of the second quarter. It didn't affect the Steelers' scrum, which was solid as a rock all night. It helps when you can bring two All Blacks front-rowers on in the second stanza in the form of Hika Elliot and Pauliasi Manu. Halfback August Pulu was again in sterling form, and tackled like he was closer to Tuiloma's size.

Waikato crawled back into the game via four tries, but they were always playing catch-up rugby. There was to be no joy for first five Sam Christie in his 50th game for the province, though Whetu Douglas and Steven Misa gave their all.

The win caps a marvellous week for Counties Manukau rugby. Last weekend their senior men's and women's rep teams both lowered Auckland, while on Wednesday their Under 19s won the Michael Jones Trophy at the national tournament.

The Steelers next travel to Blenheim for a Thursday night fixture with the Tasman Makos, while Waikato have a Wednesday night Ranfurly Shield appointment with Canterbury in Hamilton.

Counties Manukau 35 (Kalolo Tuiloma 3, Gafatasi Sua, Sione Fifita tries; Piers Francis 2 con, 2 pen)
Waikato 26 (Iliesa Tavuyara Ratuva, Brad Tucker, Steven Misa, Jason Robertson tries; Robertson 2 con, Sam Christie con)
HT: 22-5

- NZ Herald

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