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ITM Cup - Round 7 Review
Williams steers Canterbury to victory
September 12, 2010
Southland 's Seminar Manu spots a gap in North Harbour's defence during the ITM Cup match, Rugby Park, , Invercargill, New Zealand, September 10, 2010
Southland dominated North Harbour in a seven-try rout © Getty Images
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Sonny Bill Williams stepped up his game with style as Canterbury overcame a gallant Northland 27-23 in a frenetic ITM Cup clash at Whangarei on Saturday.

The competition leaders led 21-16 at half-time but were forced to work right down to the final minute by Northland and it took a dropped goal from fly-half Stephen Brett in the 78th minute to finally put the game out of Northland's reach. The performance of Williams, especially in the first half, was impressive. After coming off the bench last week against Bay of Plenty, he started at centre and featured in all three Canterbury tries that went to centre partner Robbie Fruean, lock Luke Romani and fellow second row Isaac Ross.

A try from Bronson Murray along with the boot of Lachie Munro kept the hosts in touch with Canterbury reduced to 14-men in the second half when captain George Whitelock was yellow-carded for playing the ball on the ground. No.8 Cameron Eyre crashed over late in the game with Munro adding the conversion to bring Northland to within a point until Brett's dropped goal with barely a minute remaining.

Taranaki soared into third spot in on the back of a solid 28-19 win over Counties Manukau in New Plymouth on Sunday. Starting the day in seventh position, Taranaki overcame a 15-16 half-time deficit to outscore Counties 13-3 in the second half. Counties, who beat Tasman 23-3 in their last outing, dominated the first quarter with Tim Nanai-Williams kicking two penalities and converting the opening try of the match by prop Simon Lemalu.

But Taranaki came back to take the lead with two tries from wing David Smith and fullback Kurt Baker after first five Willie Ripia had kicked a penalty. But Counties retook the lead on the stroke of half-time with another Nanai-Williams penalty. Taranaki then took control of the game and Keats finished off a period of sutained pressure from the start of the second half with a converted try and then Ripia added another two penalties. Counties only had a Nanai-Williams penalty to celebrate in the second half as they lost direction with their play.

Auckland beat Wellington 21-15 in heavy rain at Eden Park to break a two-match losing streak against their arch-rivals. Auckland last beat Wellington in the 2007 national championship final but then lost 27-0 to Wellington in 2008 and 16-15 in 2009 - both also Ranfurly Shield encounter. But they were able to turn the tables on last year's finalists with better ball control when they had the ball and by slowing Wellington's ball at every opportunity to score two tries to none.

First five Matt Berquist shone for Auckland by scoring 16 of his side's points with a try, three penalties and a conversion. Auckland's other try, the opening points of the match was scored by hardworking lock Liaki Moli who spun through the Wellington defence after a series of phases to set up an easy conversion for Berquist.

Hawke's Bay wing Richard Buckman kicked a dramatic 48m penalty goal long after the final hooter to earn a 27-27 draw against Waikato on Saturday. Waikato looked to have done enough to secure victory through Trent Renata's long-range penalty with 10 minutes remaining. But as the final hooter sounded, an exhausted Hawke's Bay started a move behind their own try-line and forced their way upfield with around a dozen phases, getting within range for a penalty to give Buckman the chance to nonchalantly slot the equaliser to the crowd's delight.

Waikato had started by far the stronger, Save Tokula and Liam Messam scoring tries to earn a 12-6 half-time lead at McLean Park, Napier. Fly-half Renata picked up his own try for Waikato before Hawke's Bay prop Clint Newland responded, giving his side a lifeline. Toby Smith made Waikato's lead look unassailable but a superb individual effort from fullback Gillies Kaka and Daniel Fitzpatrick's third penalty kept the hosts in touch. Buckland then hit a 50m penalty to level it up at 24-24 before the late drama resulted in even honours.

Southland were in impressive form as they beat North Harbour 47-21 to retain the Ranfurly Shield in Invercargill. Their seven-try rout began as early as the third minute with second five-eighth Matt Saunders brushed through tackles to open the scoring. Harbour replied 15 minutes later through winger Nafi Tuitavake but all too often they were guilty of turning over possession.

And Southland proved dangerous on the counterattack, with captain Jamie Mackintosh touching down for their second try. Scott Cowan and Glen Horton crossed either side of half time for Southland. Harbour replied with a try from fly-half Mike Harris, but the margin ballooned from there with three further scores before the final whistle. Although Harbour pulled one back through prop James Afoa, they left themselves wide open in seeking the bonus try, and Kendrick Lynn picked up his second try of the match in the final seconds of play.

Bay of Plenty defied trying conditions to outgun Manawatu and get their campaign back on track at Mt Maunganui on Thursday. Coming off a heavy loss to Canterbury, the home side won 41-13 at a wet and windy Baypark where heavy rain in the hours before the match left large puddles and a slippery field to greet the players.

It was the endeavour of the pack which earned Bay of Plenty their first two tries, both scored by tight-head prop Tristan Moran in a four-minute spell after the teams had traded early penalties. Fly-half Mike Delany set up their third try with a well weighted stab kick which centre Corey Aporo carefully scooped up to dive over, while wing Lelia Masaga secured the bonus point fourth try and lock Culum Retallick added a fifth. Manawatu at least had the satisfaction of a try of their own when replacement No.8 Bertus Mulder scored but Bay of Plenty had the last word when second five-eighth Grant McQuoid crossed for the final try .

Elsewhere on Sunday, Otago beat Tasman 13-11 in a dour clash in Nelson. The win was just the second for the southerners this season, and finally lifts them off the bottom of the table.

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