Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Taranaki pip Turbos at the death

Johnny Faauli of Taranaki. Photo / Getty
Johnny Faauli of Taranaki. Photo / Getty

Taranaki 30
Manawatu 19

A tense local derby played in awful conditions - it was no surprise it boiled down to a couple of critical moments.

For 70 minutes the outcome was in the balance. There was nothing between the two on the scoreboard and no feel for which, if any, may have had more in the tank or the killer punch lurking.

And then, almost out of the blue, Taranaki won an unlikely turnover thanks to Lachlan Boshier and they put Latu Vaeno in at the corner. That didn't quite kill off Manawatu, but a deadly lineout drive four minutes later did.

Taranaki played their way deep into Manawatu territory, took a clean ball in the middle and then Rhys Marshall was able to burrow over.

When Marty McKenzie nailed the conversion to put them eight points in front with five minutes left, it gave the home side enough breathing space to play without inhibition and land one last penalty to make it seem like the won a lot more easily than they did.

That they took a bonus point in the process will have cheered them no end, not only because it may prove to be crucial in the final wash up, but because it was also not the sort of night that they would have run out thinking they were going to score a lot of tries.

Conditions were difficult. The rain kept tumbling out of a foreboding sky, but it did at least fall vertically.

Still, the volume of water on the pitch made life hard enough without any wind and ball retention and handling reflected that. Neither side could really generate the momentum they were hoping for because offloading was difficult.

It was just as hard to generate width or at least it was just as hard to get on the outside of the defence when the ball went wide because the passes mostly had to be pulled into the body before they could be moved on.

Inevitably, the contest became a physical slug-fest sort of affair.

It was all about bashing up the middle and trying to dominate physically. Win the collisions and build some go-forward in the conditions, and it would most likely yield a penalty or some kind of advantage.

It was that way until the last 10 minutes when Taranaki found another gear and finished faster down the home straight.

Taranaki 30 (R. O'Neill, K. O'Donnell, L. Vaeno, R. Marshall tries; M. McKenzie 2 cons, 2 pens)
Manawatu 19 (A. Curtis try; O. Black con, 4 pens)
Halftime: 15-16.

- NZ Herald

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