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ITM Cup - Round 10
Williams on song for Cantabs again
ESPNscrum Staff
October 3, 2010
Waikato's Brendan Leonard is stretchered from the field, Northland v Waikato, ITM Cup, Toll Stadium, Whangerei, New Zealand, October 2, 2010
Waikato's Brendon Leonard is stretchered from the field with a neck injury during his side's victory over Northland © Getty Images
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Sonny Bill Williams inspired Canterbury to a 35-20 win over Otago in Dunedin on Saturday - scoring a try and playing a prominent role in another two scores.

Williams, starting the match at centre, was not the only player to shine -- Colin Slade had an immaculate game at fly-half, running his backline line well besides kicking two penalties and three conversions while fullback Sean Maitland was industrious throughout and justly rewarded with a try.

Otago led 6-0 after 13 minutes from two Glenn Dickson penalties. Canterbury hit back from a turnover. Williams and Slade combined to break the Otago defence on the right and when the ball was moved wide, hooker Steve Fualau powered over on the left flank for a converted try. A cheeky dropped goal by halfback Andy Ellis stretched Canterbury's lead out to 10-6 and then second five Ryan Crotty dotted down after a beautifully worked move in which Williams was prominent.

Slade stretched Canterbury's lead after the break but Otago struck twice in quick succession with two converted tries throught Joe Hill and Halani Aulika and tie the scores at 20-20. Williams then showed all his power and pace in a swerving 60m run which turned the Otago defence inside out before he went over for Slade to convert. Slade kicked a penalty in the 78th minute and Maitland finished off a brilliant solo effort in the last play after the hooter went to give Canterbury an invaluable bonus-point for their fourth try of the game.

Taranaki bolted up to third place after grinding previous leaders Southland into the ground with a 23-6 win in New Plymouth. The match was low on entertainment value but high on aggression and defensive intensity as Taranaki registered four valuable competition points with a deserved win. Taranaki had not beaten Southland since 2004 -- and not in New Plymouth since 2001 -- but they made the best possible start in their quest to break the drought, with centre Jayden Hayward crossing for a try inside five minutes.

Southland replied through a Robbie Robinson penalty but ill discipline in their own half cost the visitors, with Taranaki fly-half Willie Ripia converting two penalty attempts for a 13-3 half-time lead. A penalty try pushed the score out to 20-6 and despite plenty of huffing and puffing, Southland lacked the firepower to blow the house down against a determined and efficient Taranaki side.

Waikato's attack-minded approach was rewarded with five points and a big move up the standings following a 45-33 win over Northland in an entertaining match in Whangarei. Both teams made good use of perfect conditions for running rugby by scoring five tries each in a match that appeared destined to go to wire until Waikato wrestled free midway through the second half, with successive tries to impressive wing Henry Speight and fly-half Stephen Donald, who tallied 25 points.

It wasn't all good news for Waikato, however, with halfback Brendon Leonard, who had scored two tries, stretchered from the field and taken to hospital in a neck brace following a head clash with Northland fullback Lachie Munro.

Auckland came back from a seemingly perilous position to draw 34-34 with Hawke's Bay at Eden Park on Friday. The visitors looked to have sealed all five points when flanker Trent Boswell-Williams and wing Sinoti Sinoti crossed early in the second-half to push the visitors out to a 31-16 lead, but Auckland surged back to level the match at 31-31, then again at 34-34 when fly-half Matt Berquist nailed his fifth penalty with three minutes remaining.

Hawke's Bay fullback Israel Dagg watched in despair as his late drop-goal hit the post and the pressure got to wing Mark Jackman, whose penalty attempt in the final seconds slid past the post.

Bay of Plenty mixed individual brilliance with tradesman-like reliability to overcome testing conditions and beat Wellington 31-24 in their tie in Wellington on Thursday. The first half was a stop-start affair dominated by the whistle of referee Keith Brown as Mike Delany landed four penalties to the three managed by his young opposite Lima Sopoaga. Bay of Plenty's 19-12 half- time advantage came courtesy of the only try during that period to fullback Ben Smith.

The home side were soon confronting a solid defeat early in the second-half when Cory Aporo scored an excellent individual try by stepping Shaun Treeby. Wellington reacted strongly though, reducing the deficit to two points after quality tries to hooker Dane Coles and halfback Alby Mathewson. The contest instantly lifted a notch before Bay of Plenty wing Lelia Masaga made the most of a turnover on his own ten-metre line to streak away for a decisive try four minutes before the end.

On Sunday, All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden showed his class by almost single-handedly propelling Manawatu to a 20-8 win over Tasman in an underwhelming match in Palmerston North. With his team trailing 3-8 after a forgettable first 40 minutes, Cruden made a crucial linebreak which led to lock Fraser Stone crashing over next to the posts, handing the home team their first lead.

Ten minutes later Cruden provided the highlight of an otherwise scrappy match, jinking his way past four defenders in heavy traffic to score and push Manawatu's lead beyond seven points. They held on to register their first win against Tasman from five attempts, climbing two places from last to 12th, while Tasman drop to 13th

In the final game of the weekend, Counties Manukau edged out North Harbour 24-23 in Pukekohe. The win kept them in the hunt in seventh on 29 points following a sixth win of the season, secured when North Harbour fly-half Mike Harris missed a late sideline conversion.

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