Waikato hold off Manawatu fightback

Waikato has notched a crucial early-season win over Manawatu 28-21 in Palmerston North this afternoon.

Manwatu fightback against Waikato. Credit: Perform Group

The win puts the Mooloos back on track after a loss in week one.

Performing much more comprehensively in all areas. Waikato utilized their backline and benefit from two great impact performances by returning All Blacks Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

Discipline was again a concern for the Mooloos in the victory.

Manawatu showed that they are never out of a match, coming back to nearly clinch a late victory.

Shaun Stevenson wasted no time picking up from where he left off in the last game, stepping past four Manawatu defenders to score in the corner with just over a minute on the clock.

McKenzie missed the conversion, but Waikato was out to an early lead.

Manawatu was penalised for not rolling away, then McKenzie put the Mooloos eight points in front with a kick from close to halfway.

Manawatu looked shaky early on, falling off a couple of tackles but the Mooloos kept up the early pressure, passing the ball around, and bringing the backline into the game.

McKenzie took Waikato out to an 11-point lead, slotting his second penalty.

Laim Messam showed how important his experience can be for the young Mooloos side, forcing a turnover after a brilliant counter-ruck.

Manawatu fullback Hamiora Thomas was sent to the sin bin for deliberately knocking down the ball when Waikato had a clean break and a free player out wide.

It didn’t take Waikato long to score with an extra man on the park.

Going down in the tackle, Loni Uhila reached over the try line and planted the ball down on the turf, handing Waikato their second try. After McKenzie converted, Waikato had a big lead of 18-0 with a quarter of the match gone.

Pushed for the first time on defense, Waikato was lucky to not be caught on the left after rushing up quickly.

A prolonged period of attack saw Manawatu begin to dominate possession and territory after Jordan Payne was sent to the sin bin for illegally stripping the ball.Waikato were backed up on their try line but their defense was strong and held out the attack.

At halftime, Waikato led 18-0 at Arena Manawatu.

Waikato were immediately on the attack after the break, but when Messam knocked on, Manawatu counter attacked and a brilliantly weighted kick on the break by Jason Emery setup Manawatu’s first try.

Otere Black converted and the score was 18-7.

Just after getting back to a full playing XV, Waikato were a man down again when Tawera Kerr-Barlow was sent to the sin bin for an illegal knockdown.

Kerr-Barlow would have been kicking himself after an impressive showing prior.

Fraser Armstrong powered over the line, breaking down three Waikato defenders to score Manawatu’s second. Black’s conversion saw the Waikato lead cut to just four.

As they did in round one, Manawatu showed that they are capable of coming back from large deficits and had all the momentum.

Damian McKenzie gave Waikato some breathing room, slotting a penalty to make the score 21-14.

Waikato got a little too ambitious in their own half, McKenzie threw his third forward pass of the game to hand possession to Manawatu on the try line, but Manawatu knocked on and the opportunity went begging.

Good kicking from McKenzie and Weber shifted the game back down onto the Manawatu try line.

McKenzie slicked through the last line of Manawatu defense to score and all but put the game beyond the home side. Following the conversion, Waikato was out to a 14-point lead with the last period of the game remaining.

It was McKenzie’s first try in regular season ITM Cup competition.

Manwatu inched closer with a Nathan Tudreu sideline tippy toe, grounding the ball down, and after sending the decision upstairs, the try was awarded.

On the sideline, Black struck the kick perfectly to bring the deficit back to seven.

A certain try was lost for Manawatu when Black’s pass flew over the head of a free receiver, but Waikato were not out of the woods when Declan O’Donnell was tackled near his own try line as the Mooloos struggled to clear.

One last chance with running ball presented itself to Manawatu and the Turbos opted for an attacking scrum ten metres out. Moving forward with the ball, Manawatu came within inches of scoring, but the ball became trapped in the ruck.

The referee blew his whistle, and the game was over.

Waikato narrowly held on to be 28-21 winners in round two ITM Cup action over Manawatu.

Experience could prove critical for Waikato

The Mooloos wont be lacking in motivation to beat Manawatu as two of their seasoned campaigners return for a rare appearance in ITM Cup rugby.

Liam Messam returns to ITM Cup. Credit: Planet Rugby

Manawatu are defending ITM Cup Championship division champs and will again be a big challenge for Waikato.

Liam Messam makes his first appearance in Mooloos colors in four years, and Waikato will be counting on his experience being critical at the breakdown, an area of concern last week.

Having Messam in the run on side will be a great motivator for the youngsters in the forward pack to perform.

If Waikato is to beat Manawatu away from home, wingers Joe Webber and Declan O’Donnell need to be injected into the game. The ball needs to be thrown across the field to put the talented wingers into space with covering support.

Captain Whetu Douglas needs to be more disciplined in the ruck.

The front row packs a little more experience with Loni Uhila starting, and coach Sean Botherway has given a lot of faith to James Tucker who starts after debuting off the bench last week.

Tucker is rated highly but has been marred by injuries throughout the last year.

Last years fixture between the two sides saw Waikato narrowly lose 22-20 after being in a position to win the match late with numbers free on the wing, but the keen Damian McKenzie decided to run the ball himself and ended up being penalized in the ruck.

Waikato should have won that game, and McKenzie will be desperate for a strong showing as the looming return of Stephen Donald lingers.

It has been five years since the Mooloos beat Manawatu away from home, the performance last week has been forgotten fast, but Waikato need to be very wary of Manawatu’s ability to comeback fast from deficits.

Manawatu nearly shocked Counties Manakau last week with a thrilling comeback, losing by just a single point.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow will have much to prove in a rare Mooloos outing as the halfback sits around third or fourth in the race of All Black number nines wanting to go to the World Cup next month.

Today’s match could be Kerr-Barlow’s last chance to impress All Black selectors.

Waikato fall to Manawatu in scrappy affair

Waikato’s ITM Cup season is all but over after losing 20-22 to Manawatu at Waikato Stadium this afternoon.

BM

In a game which had no flow throughout, lack of discipline leading to penalties hindered both sides ability to execute their game plan.

Given the amount of penalties awarded, Waikato’s much talked about kicker Damian McKenzie converted just 5 of his 9 penalty attempts, and chose to run the ball into contact and attempt a try right on the full time buzzer when Waikato had an overlap. Still, blame cannot be put on McKenzie, as the young fly half spotted a gap and went for it.

It could be argued that others in the back line should have called the overlap a little louder.

Manawatu were awarded a penalty desperately defending their own line, handing them the match and effectively ending Waikato’s season.

The game was won for Manawatu in the goal kicking department, with Manawatu not missing a single kick on goal all match while Waikato missed plenty, including two fairly simple kicks early on in the first half.

Joe Webber continued his fine season, scoring Waikato’s only try in the 17th minute.

Moral will be fairly low in the Waikato camp tonight after what coach Johnny Walters described as a poor performance, telling this blog he was “not happy at all” post match.

Waikato will travel to Eden Park next weekend to take on Auckland, but the season is all but gone with just a couple of games to go following todays result.