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ITM Cup - Round 6 Review
Berquist boots Auckland past Taranaki
ESPNscrum
September 5, 2010

Fly-half Matt Berquist played an influential role as Auckland revived their faltering ITM Cup campaign by beating Taranaki 27-13 at Eden Park on Sunday.

Auckland registered their fourth victory in six outings after Berquist landed six of eight goalkicking attempts for a personal haul of 17 points. Young outside backs Atieli Pakalani and Winston Stanley scored tries out of nothing in the second half to extended the 6-3 lead Berquist had helped establish at the break.

Replacement loose forward Samuela Vunisa scored a try for the visitors but a lack of accuracy from Berquist's opposite Willie Ripia, who kicked just three-from-six, undermined the visitors' attempts to halt Auckland's six-match unbeaten run over them.

All Black winger Rene Ranger inspired Northland to a shock 33-22 victory over Southland on Saturday, which ended the Stags' 100% record and knocked them off the top of the ITM Cup table.In a game of contrasting styles, Northland's sense of adventure saw them score four tries to the more conservative Southland's three, with all of their efforts coming from long distance. Southland's, meanwhile, were all close range scores from the pack.

The decisive moment came in the 51st minute as Ranger took a superb line off David Holwell and burst 80m before offloading to captain Jared Payne, who scored. That cut off a Southland fightback despite Northland being down to 14 men, after Dan Pryor was yellow carded. Southland hit back with Jamie Mackintosh scoring a try, but fullback Lachie Munro kicked Northland home.

Sloppy Southland started the game in sluggish form and conceded three tries in the opening 21 minutes. Ranger got them on their way with a pacy effort, before Payne grabbed his first after good work from Dean Budd. Pryor then added a third as the Northlanders impressed.

Southland's dominant scrum and effective pick-and-go began to dominate the match, forcing the hosts into conceding multiple penalties. King and Mackintosh ploughed across in identical fashion before the break but it didn't prove enough for a side who defend the Ranfurly Shield against North Harbour in Invercargill next weekend.

Waikato secured their second bonus point victory in successive weeks with a 36-27 win over a disappointing North Harbour at Albany. Dominiko Waqaniburotu's try 15 minutes from time was the crucial score, sealing a win built on attacking rugby started by midfield backs Christian Leali'ifano and Save Tokula. Leali'ifano started the counter attacking move that led to Richard Kahui feeding second-row Waqaniburotu to score.

Tokula set up two of Waikato's first-half tries with powerful busts, helping them to a 28-20 advantage at the break. The first put halfback Brendon Leonard over while the second saw him break through a poor attempted tackle from All Black Luke McAlister to send Leali'ifano over for his first try in Waikato colours.

Winger Dwayne Sweeney scored their other try while first five-eighth Trent Renata slotted 16 points with the boot. North Harbour pivot Mike Harris landed five-from-five with the boot but his side failed to score for the final 37 minutes, with their last points coming via a try to hooker James Parsons to reduce the margin to one point. They scored impressive early tries through prop Ben Afeaki and winger Alipati Fatafehi but ran out of puff to suffer their fourth loss in six matches.

Manawatu turned the formbook on its head with a shock 36-24 win over a witless Wellington in Palmerston North in Saturday's early kick off. Manawatu suddenly burst to life after five successive defeats and sealed a bonus point victory with their fourth try to substitute Asaeli Tikoirotuma coming more than one minute after the final hooter.

Manawatu's Shannon Paku scored in the corner in just the third minute and the hosts were in front 14-12 at the interval after Isaac Thompson landed three penalties to counter Wellington's two tries to Tajhon Mailata and wing Alipate Leiua.

Wellington flanker Scott Fugistaller was sinbinned for repeat offending and Manawatu took advantage as centre Hadleigh Parkes scored the best try of the game with a determined long-range effort. Young wing Julian Savea scored in the 64th minute to give Wellington hope as they edged to within seven points.

But a mistake by Savea gifted Thompson a three-pointer, which he landed to increase his personal haul to 14 points and give his side welcome breathing space entering the closing minutes. They needed it, too, once Wellington debutante Mailata scored his second try in the 72nd minute. Manawatu had the last word, though, as Wellington pressed for an unlikely win, with Tikoirotuma pulling off an intercept in the 82nd minute.

All Blacks hopeful Sonny Bill Williams came off the bench to make his long-awaited debut in the ITM Cup as Canterbury overcame Bay of Plenty 28-9. Southland's slip up means the champions top the table. Williams replaced the injured Ryan Crotty in the 18th minute and went on to make a try-saving tackle on Lelia Masaga as well as showing some neat touches in attack in a promising debut.

Bay of Plenty took a 6-0 lead through two Mike Delany penalties but Canterbury fly-half Stephen Brett closed the gap with a penalty of his own, before No.8 Nasi Manu powered over for a converted try. An early second half penalty by Brett stretched the lead to 13-9 and Bay of Plenty had no answer once Canterbury began to keep the ball in hand.

Blindside flanker Matt Todd was on hand to take the final pass from Sam Whitelock to score an unconverted try after a concerted build-up from Canterbury involving backs and forwards. Brett kicked another penalty and then in the best move of the match, centre Robbie Fruean scythed through the Bay of Plenty defence to score his seventh try of the season.

Counties Manukau recorded their fourth win in six outings in this season's ITM Cup by easily defeating Tasman 23-3 in inclement weather conditions at Pukekohe on Thursday. Remarkably, it was the visitors who opened the scoring, with Steve Alfeld slotting over a 15th-minute penalty. However, they failed to register another score thereafter as they were completely outplayed by their hosts.

Tim Nanai-Williams levelled matters towards the end of the first quarter before Ahsee Tuala touched down in the corner following an incisive run from former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga. Nanai-Williams stroked over the conversion and then added a penalty to put ten points between the sides at the interval.

The Counties-Manukau fullback landed another penalty just after the restart before a scintillating break from August Pulu led to Sherwin Stowers crossing to put the game beyond a toothless Tasman side.

In the final game of the weekend, Otago lodged their first win of the campaign with a 17-6 win against Hawke's Bay. In a game that struggled for highlights, a strong wind whipping through Carisbrook made running rugby difficult and it appeared an Otago team missing star loose forward Adam Thomson hadn't made the most of it when leading just 10-3 at hal-ftime.

However, a try to veteran prop Kees Meeuws soon after half-time pushed them 14 points clear. Otago, whose half-time lead came courtesy of a try to captain Alando Soakai, spent much of the game's remainder on defence but they held out for the most part with hooker Hika Elliot shrugged off a weak tackle from lock Hoani Matenga midway through the half.

They are still rooted to the bottom of the standings, two points behind Manawatu and three behind Hawke's Bay, who appear unlikely to continue their run of semi-final appearances in recent seasons.

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