Manawatu hold Northland at bay
October 4, 2013
Manawatu's slim hopes of a semi-final berth were given a boost after they defeated Northland 22-16 in Palmerston North on Friday.
The Turbos stood firm against a late swing of momentum, triggered by a try to Northland replacement Derek Carpenter, and leapfrogged Otago to fourth place on the championship table. Tries to Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (2) and Lewis Marshall had the home side in front by 11 points before they were forced to withstand a late surge from the Taniwha.
With close to 500 points conceded between both sides this season, a try-scoring appeared likely. However, despite the late flurry of five-pointers, what the FMG Stadium faithful saw in their final outing of the year was patches of brilliance sprinkled over piles of glaring errors and scrum resets.
While the conditions could not have been better, both sides struggled with ball control as the referee went about rehearsing his scrum engagement calls. A try to Whiria Melter was the highlight of an error-riddled opening 40 minutes during which Northland took an 11-7 lead. The explosive winger cashed in on a piece of brilliance from flanker Dan Pryor, who fed him an offload in traffic that would have made Sonny Bill Williams proud.
With so many errors being made, the match officials could be forgiven for missing one or two. And Manawatu hooker Rob Foreman will certainly be grateful his dreadful lineout throw was not picked up. As play was allowed to continue, Bedwell-Curtis received the short feed then breezed down the right touch line to score in the corner.
The Taniwha was justifiably aggrieved, but made it count on the scoreboard with two penalty goals to fly-half Daniel Hawkins. Just as it looked as if the Turbos would hold onto a slender 7-6 lead at the break, Hawkins launched a deft cross-field kick that found its way to Pryor, who had the awareness to find his flying winger.
It was a glimpse of what Northland could have been doing all season. Rene Ranger alone is a force to be reckoned with but after rushing back from a shoulder injury to face Tasman last month, his impact was minimal. He eventually succumbed to the pain and made his exit at the turn of the final quarter.
And so, without any real momentum, Northland were put on the back foot as the Turbos slugged it out through the middle until they were close enough for Bedwell-Curtis to slam the ball down over the line. From there, Manawatu made all the running and stayed camped inside the attacking 22 where Jade Te Rure made use of what looked to be a mistimed move to send Marshall across the whitewash. The enterprising fullback bobbled the ball but had the composure to regather before touching down.
Carpenter gave the visitors a glimmer of hope with his late try, but when Mac Sykes fumbled inside the attacking 22 they were out of chances and slumped to their fifth straight defeat.
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