Southland setting the pace
September 19, 2010
Southland's Kendrick Lynn breaks the tackle of Christian Lealiifano on his way to the try-line © Getty Images
Bay of Plenty 24 - 21 Counties Manukau Otago 8 - 13 Northland Tasman 21 - 28 North Harbour Wellington 17 - 13 Hawke's Bay Taranaki 31 - 20 Canterbury Manawatu 6 - 32 Auckland Waikato 6 - 7 Southland
Southland claimed their first ever win in Hamilton as they edged out Waikato 7-6 in a brutal war of attrition, sealing top spot in the ITM Cup for another weekend.
The opening game of this weekend's action was a fiercely competitive affair which did not feature a score after the 27th minute of the first half. Waikato had made an enterprising start to the game and opened the scoring with a penalty from Trent Renata. However, the visitors replied with what turned out to be the game's only try in the 11th minute, the in-form Kendrick Lynne burning Christian Lealiifano on the outside before streaking away to score a try which was promptly converted by Robbie Robinson.
The home side drew to within a point thanks to another penalty from Renata just before the half hour but he missed three other strikes on goal in the first half, meaning Waikato went in behind at the break. They continued to dominate, both in terms of possession and territory after the interval but, incredibly, they failed to register another score.
Former All Black Stephen Donald, on as a replacement in what was his first appearance in four months after a chest injury, had two separate chances to to win it but he missed a penalty attempt shortly after his introduction before dragging a drop goal attempt wide late on, allowing Southland to rack up their seventh win from eight games this season.
Taranaki got this weekend's 125th anniversary celebrations off to a perfect start by climbing to third in the standings on the back of a shock 31-20 ITM Cup victory over two-time defending champions Canterbury in New Plymouth on Saturday.
After being stunned by the concession of an early try to Canterbury's Sean Maitland, the home side seized control of the game when No.8 Ben Souness conjured up a sublime solo score. Taranaki fullback Kurt Baker was then on hand to score after Andre Taylor had collected Willie Ripia's cross-field kick before centre George Pisi took advantage of Sonny Bill Williams' failure to adequately deal with a grubber kick.
However, All Blacks hopeful Williams made amends for his earlier error by crossing on 52 minutes after a fine team move as his side went about turning a nine-point deficit at the interval into a one-point advantage by the hour mark.
Taranaki were not to be denied, though, and they sealed what is just their 14th victory over Canterbury in 57 meetings with late tries from flanker Jarrad Hoeata and replacement fly-half Beauden Barrett.
Northland ended 31 years of pain at Carisbrook by beating Otago 13-8 in a tense match-up in Dunedin on Sunday.
A late try to captain Jared Payne snared victory for the visitors, who haven't won at the southern venue since 1979. That run looked like continuing as an Otago side who largely dominated possession and territory fought back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to lead 8-3 with less than 15 minutes remaining, thanks to a penalty to replacement first five-eighth Hayden Parker and try to lock Hayden Triggs
However, a second penalty to Northland winger Lachie Munro was followed by the game's decisive moment in the 73rd minute when a cutout pass from veteran first five-eighth David Holwell gave space to their three key strike weapons.
Centre Rene Ranger found Munro free on the left flank and he sent an inside ball to fullback Payne to keep the Northlanders well in the hunt for a semi-final berth.
First five-eighth Mike Delany scored a try deep into stoppage time to hand Bay of Plenty a thrilling 24-21 win against Counties Manukau in Mt Maunganui on Sunday.
Having fought their way back from 0-14 down to lead 17-14, it then appeared the home team had blown victory when impressive Counties Manukau centre Siale Piutau crossed with 10 minutes remaining to give his team a 21-17 lead, against the run of play in the second-half.
But a string of penalties in the dying minutes handed the Bay the field position they needed and the pressure told, with Delany crashing over after a quick tap close to the line.
Counties' first try went to lock Taiasina Tuifua but an individual try from Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga kept Bay of Plenty. Taniela Moa scored from a quick tap after the break to level the scores, leaving Piutau and Delany to decide things in the dying moments.
Wellington lie fifth in the standings, just one point behind Canterbury, after a much-needed 17-13 home win over Hawke's Bay which owed much to the brilliance of Hosea Gear.
The hosts had gone into the game on the back of two successive defeats and they fell behind 15 minutes in when Kahn Fotuali'i put the finishing touches on a stunning Hawke's Bay counter-attack which had started from deep inside their own half. Richard Buckman converted and then added a penalty to put the visitors ten points to the good.
However, Gear sparked the Wellington fightback with a terrific individual try on 25 minutes. Tajhon Mailate crossed moments later after a blistering break from Alipate Leiua before Gear then turned provider, putting Lima Sopaga over for Wellington's third try in 12 minutes.
Sopaga only managed to convert one of those scores on what was a dreadful night with the boot for him but it mattered not, as Hawke's Bay could only muster one second-half score, another penalty from Buckman, and Wellington to held on to claim a crucial win.
Auckland made it three wins on the bounce by producing a stirring second-half display to see off basement boys Manawatu 32-6 in Palmerston North.
The home side had been held scoreless during a turgid first half, which ended with Manawatu six points to the good courtesy of two penalties from Isaac Thompson inside the opening quarter. However, Auckland were gifted a try just six minutes after the interval when Manawatu made a mess of a lineout on their own, allowing Liaki Moli to pounce for the game's opening try. Gareth Anscombe converted and then added two penalties to put seven points between the sides by the hour mark.
Auckland, who now lie second, were now dominant but they only managed to register a bonus point thanks to a stunning five-minute spell at the end of the game in which Angus Ta'avao, Brenton Helleur and Dave Thomas all touched down.
North Harbour claimed their first win in four games with a dramatic 28-21 triumph over Tasman in Nelson.
Tasman had had the better of the first half and moved ahead when lock Chris Jack forced his way over from close range. However, the visitors replied through No. 8 Matt Luamanu and they went in three points ahead at the interval. The home side reclaimed the initiative when James Marshall crossed after a brilliant break from Kade Poki. Mike Harris and Steve Alfeld then exchanged penalties and that left Tasman 18-16 up with just 10 minutes to play.
However, Nafi Tuitavake then left four defenders trailing in his wake before carrying a fifth over the line as he put North Harbour back into the lead. Centre Jack Tarrant then sealed the win when he dived over in the corner soon after. Alfred landed a penalty with the last kick of the game to secure a bonus point for the hosts but that offered little consolation to the home fans, whose side drop to 12th, two places below their opponents.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland