Friday, September 8, 2017
Bay of Plenty won a battle of attrition against Manawatu by 20-17 in a Mitre 10 Championship match in Palmerston North tonight. It was not pretty but no one in the Steamers camp or their supporters will mind as the points on offer were vital to play-off aspirations.
Both teams came into the match with one win and two losses so there was plenty at stake with a move into the top four up for grabs. Manawatu knocked on from the kick off and the Steamers took command of the early stages.
Without star goal kicker and playmaker Mike Delany, who was resting a minor ailment, former Italy international Kelly Haimona opened the scoring with an early penalty.
Halfback Richard Judd and blindside flanker Tom Franklin made a strong burst out of their own half but the move broke down with a missed pass, which set the tone for a poor night of handling.
It was costly for the Bay as the Turbos scored the opening try after a smart move from 48 metres out. Replays showed Judd was held back preventing him making a crucial tackle but referee Ben O'Keeffe awarded the try. Haimona closed the gap to one point with another penalty after 13 minutes.
Manawatu, coached by former Bay of Plenty player and coach Jeremy Cotter, are experts at retaining possession. Centre Lewis Marshall scored their second try after 15 phases to jump out to a 14-6 lead after 20 minutes.
The Steamers dominated territory but made too many errors in the opening 30 minutes. They were denied a fine try to Joe Webber after a forward pass was called and another golden opportunity with a clever switch by Terrence Hepetema lost through a dropped pass.
But there was no stopping flying Joe Webber scoring a great under the bar after a classic set piece move from a lineout saw the winger crashing through the inside channel.
Steamers live wire halfback Judd set off for the line to score from the restart but was called back for another 50-50 call by O'Keeffe.
The Turbos had a drive from a lineout five metres out just before the break but the Steamers defended well to turn the ball over.
Manawatu led 14-13 at the break.
The Steamers made three changes to the pack after 44 minutes to add some fresh legs for the intense battle between the forwards.
Replacement Henry Stowers first touch was a 30 metre run from a broken scrum after a good run by Troy Callander but the Turbos fought back with a fine counter that led to a penalty on the Bay's 22.
From the attacking lineout they drove to the line and Stowers tuned the ball over well to ease the danger briefly. The Steamers then tuned the ball over again from a defensive lineout to make it three on the bounce from Manawatu ball.
The Steamers were shoved off the ball to gift Manawatu another golden opportunity from five meters out - make that four defensive turn overs in a row by the determined Bay forwards and another dust up between the packs.
More attacking ball for Manawatu led to another penalty and this time they went for the posts. Black added the three for a 17-13 lead.
The Steamers had the ball at last to play with after 57 minutes and replacement Isaac Te Aute and winger Monte Ioane sparked their first attack of the half but again the poor pass option in contact stopped the momentum.
The Steamers wasted two chances to kick penalties with botched lineout options as the clock ticked past 65 minutes. The Steamers had two more penalties inside the 22 and took the scrum options with their dominant pack.
It turned out to be a match-winning decision by captain Keepa Mewett. They crossed the Manawatu line but were called back for an obstruction and needed just some composure to finish off the Turbos. More penalties and a yellow card awarded against Manawatu with eight minutes left turned the tide.
From a scrum 10 metres out against seven players, the Steamers had to score and they did from the second attempt through a penalty try.
The Steamers were up 20-17 with nearly five to play and held their nerve to take the important win.
Outstanding were Maori All Black lock, Franklin, who seemed to love the shift to blindside lock and was outstanding with ball in hand, and centre, Hepetema, who ran strongly and led the defensive line.
Bay of Plenty: 20 (Joe Webber try, penalty try; Kelly Haimona con, 2 pens)
Manawatu: 17 (Otere Black, Lewis Marshall tries; Black 2 cons, pen) Halftime: 14-13 Manawatu