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ITM Cup - Round 11
Hawke's Bay thrash Counties
ESPNscrum Staff
August 20, 2011
Canterbury centre Robbie Fruean dives over, Canterbury v Taranaki, ITM Cup, Rugby Park, Christchurch, New Zealand, August 20, 2011
Centre Robbie Fruean scores Canterbury's crucial fourth try in their win over Taranaki at Rugby Park © Getty Images
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Hawke's Bay ran in six tries to overcome Counties-Manukau 44-14 in their ITM Cup clash in Napier on Sunday.

After an early Andrew Horrell penalty for the hosts, skipper Michael Coman and then prop Kasiano Lealamanua were held up over the line in the space of a matter of minutes before Karl Lowe muscled his way over for Hawke's Bay's first try of the match. He repeated the dose five minutes later to extend the lead before a delightful grubber kick from first five-eighth Dan Kirkpatrick bounced up kindly for Mark Jackman and Horrell's third conversion gave them a 24-0 lead after 20 minutes.

But the visitors clawed their way back into the match, aided by holding on to possession at last, and were rewarded with a try to centre Bundee Aki five minutes before the break to trail 24-7 at halftime.

In the second-half the hosts had the bonus-point try they needed to draw level with Manawatu at the top of the championship table when New Zealand U20 prop Ben Tameifuna capped a sweeping move from inside their own half to dot down 13 minutes into the half. New Zealand sevens flyer Sherwin Stowers answered back to give the visitors a chance of a comeback, but replacement lock Maselino Paulino and winger Richard Buckman both crossed in the final 10 minutes to allay those fears and secure the valuable win.

Elsewhere on Sunday - Otago left it late to defeat Tasman 19-16 in Nelson.

Both teams scrabbled for traction early on, the only scoring coming as Tasman captain Andrew Goodman and Otago fullback Glenn Dickson traded penalties. Although territory was shared 50-50, Tasman snared the lion's share of possession but just couldn't find the finish and the two teams went into the break tied at 9-9.

The home team started the second spell brightly, a try disallowed after the final pass to winger Mitchell Scott was ruled forward. But despite the initial domination, Tasman couldn't finish and Otago gradually started to build phases and gain some field position.

The game's first try came after 53 minutes, following an initial break by Otago centre Ben Atiga deep in his own half. Fifteen minutes later, Tasman finally converted field position into points with a quick tap from a scrum penalty. Quick hands moved the ball wide, and replacement lock Riki Hoeata crashed over in the corner. Goodman made the tricky conversion and the game was tied 16-16 with 13 minutes remaining. However, it wasn't until Tasman prop Fai Mika was ruled offside right in front of the posts with a minute remaining that the Dickson broke the deadlock with a late penalty to secure the win for Otago.

On Saturday - Canterbury moved to the top of the premiership table with a resounding 27-0 win over Taranaki in a desperately one-sided ITM Cup clash in Christchurch.

With Waikato set for action later in the day, Canterbury made the most of their opportunity to climb to the summit, running in four tries in total as they claimed a crucial bonus-point victory. Johnny McNicholl, Sean Maitland, Ash Parker and Robbie Fruean all touched down for the home side, while Tyler Bleyendaal contributed seven points with the boot.

Canterbury hit the ground running, with winger McNicholl registering a fine individual effort with less than four minutes on the clock. They were over again five minutes later, fit-again fullback Maitland marking his return to the side with a simple finish in the corner.

Taranaki temporarily managed to stem the flow but their defence was breached again just before the interval when lock Parker bounded through to score after a magnificent break from inside his own half from halfback Willi Heinz. At that stage the bonus point appeared a formality for Canterbury but sloppiness crept into their play in the second half and it wasn't until five minutes to go that they finally racked up their fourth try of the afternoon, centre Fruean charging his way over in the corner.

Waikato had hoped to reclaim top spot in the premiership that evening but they were routed 54-20 by an Aaron Cruden-inspired Manawatu outfit in Palmerston North.

Cruden, overlooked by the All Blacks, was in scintillating form, scoring one try, creating two others and nailing all ten of his kicks on goal as he ended with 29 points to his name. Manawatu simply overwhelmed their visitors in the first half, racking up five tries inside the opening half hour. The first arrived just four minutes in, with No.8 James Oliver diving over after swooping on a loose ball. Their second, meanwhile, was a thing of beauty, Cruden sparking a stunning counter-attack from his own line with a clever chip-and-chase which ended with Aaron Smith putting Craig Clare away to score.

Trent Renata then got Waikato off the mark with a penalty but there was no containing Cruden, who crafted another try for his side when his triple skip pass put Nick Crosswell over in the corner. Cruden then turned try-scorer moments later after brilliantly exploiting a small gap in the Waikato defence. The shell-shocked visitors tried to rally but they conceded a fifth try whilst on the offensive, flanker Doug Tietjens pilfering back possession for Manawatu before putting Aseli Tikoirotuma away to score.

A quick-fire brace of tries just before the break raised Waikato's spirits, with Brendon Leonard setting up scores for Jackson Willison and Save Tokula, but they still went in 18 points down at half-time (35-17).

The second half proved less exhilarating, with Cruden putting the outcome beyond doubt by responding to a Renata penalty by landing four of his own to make it 47-20 to Manawatu before replacement Lewis Marshall bagged an intercept try shortly after coming on to put the seal on a stirring victory for the hosts.

Joe Rokocoko enjoyed a happy send-off before his imminent switch to France as Auckland recorded a 25-16 victory over a free-falling Bay of Plenty side at Eden Park.

Bay of Plenty opened the season with four successive wins but had arrived intent on arresting a run of three defeats on the bounce. However, they found themselves behind after just six minutes, Bayonne-bound winger Rokocoko featuring twice during a sustained spell of possession from the home side which eventually saw centre Hadleigh Parkes dive over from close range. Gareth Anscombe converted and then landed a penalty to put ten points between the sides.

Bay of Plenty, though, slowly clawed their way back into the game and after Chis Noakes had gotten them off the mark with a penalty, they drew level when Luke Braid touched down after a quick tap from Colin Bourke had caught Auckland's defence napping. The visitors then edged in front in the dying seconds of the half, however, courtesy of a penalty from Noakes.

However, the second half belonged almost exclusively to Auckland - and this in spite of losing lock Liaki Moli to a serious looking shoulder injury five minutes into the second period. After Anscombe and Noakes had traded penalties early in the third quarter, Rokocoko made a fine break which eventually led to New Zealand under-20s lock Steven Luatua - on as a replacement for Moli - bulldozing his way through to score in impressive fashion. Auckland then sealed victory when fullback Dave Thomas raced away to score after pouncing on a loose ball following a terrific burst upfield from George Moala.

Championship basement boys North Harbour picked up only their second win of the season by defeating fellow strugglers Northland 33-26 in Albany.

Despite having gone into the game without a victory since the middle of July, North Harbour played with commendable confidence in the first half. They fell 6-3 behind early on but claimed the first try of the game when fullback Willie Walker dotted after some patient attacking play from the hosts. Ben Botica then coverted and subsequently added a penalty but the boot of Lachie Munro kept Northland right in contention and Harbour led by just a solitary point at the interval.

However, the hosts extended their advantage with a try from New Zealand sevens star David Raikuna just five minutes into the second half. Botica added the extras and then nailed a penalty to make it 23-12 to Harbour.

Replacement flanker Cameron Goodhue reduced Northland's arrears when he grounded the ball following a well-executed set-piece play and the visitors then edged a point ahead when winger Bryce Heem scythed through the North Harbour defence for a try which was promptly converted by Munro.

Harbour hit back right away, though, with Luamanu charging though to score. Botica converted and then added a penalty to seal an overdue win for the hosts.

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