Turbos snatch late win
Manawatu may just have thrown off their away jinx.
Manawatu Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran wasn't prepared to say their away hoodoo is gone just yet, but they're close after beating Northland 28-23 in Whangarei last night.
Last year Manawatu were awful away from home, so an away win over Northland, their fourth in a row over the Taniwha, is a big result.
It wasn't pretty though, with Manawatu having to come from 23-14 down and score two tries in the last nine minutes to win.
O'Halloran was pleased they responded to the challenge and said they deliberately played their pre-season games away from home, which looked to have paid off.
"First and foremost I'm just really rapt with the ticker after going behind," he said. "It would have been easy to have folded at that stage away from home.
"We showed a lot of character and good energy levels to get way back into the game. We had to get the ball down the right end of the field."
Manawatu were leading after halftime, but conceded a soft try to Northland halfback Sonatane Takalua who dived over from a ruck, although referee Ben O'Keeffe looked to be in defender Kayne Hammington's way.
Their second came through wing Filipo Nakosi, who finished off a run from fullback Mathew Wright.
But the fresh legs of prop Chris Eves and lock Fraser Stone gave the Manawatu forwards the boost they needed to get them into Northland's 22. Hamish Northcott was put in a hole to score by Jade Te Rure and then captain Callum Gibbins popped out of a rolling maul and ran over untouched for the matchwinner in the 75th minute.
With four minutes left, Northland were awarded two penalties, kicking to the corner to try to score, but twice hooker Jordan Olsen overthrew his jumpers and Manawatu snaffled the ball.
With Auckland and Wellington in their next two games, it was crucial Manawatu won yesterday.
"It's massively important," O'Halloran said. "The last time we had win first up was 2011. Hopefully that's a good omen."
Manawatu reached the Championship final in 2011.
Even though they won, Manawatu missed 24 tackles, with Northland wing Jone Macilai and Wright hard to put down.
"Not good enough," O'Halloran said. "We made some good tackles but from our kicking we put ourselves under pressure. We put it down the left winger's [Macilai] throat."
Northland's backs made breaks, but their turnover rate was too high, conceding 28.
Northland first five-eighth Dan Hawkins was sin-binned for a deliberate knockdown in the 24th minute.
He slapped it down when it looked as if he could have caught the ball and would have scored under the sticks untouched.
But Manawatu couldn't capitalise with the extra man. Te Rure slotted the penalty, but Wright answered straight back to save Hawkins any embarrassment.
Lock Keepa Mewett had a good debut with the lineout functioning well and halfback Hammington had 25 minutes off the bench in his first game for Manawatu.
Manawatu had the better scrum for most of the game. Eves was strong off the bench and flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis played well.
In the backline, centre Jason Emery had some good touches, making half breaks, as did fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder and Te Rure looked good apart from a few kicks straight to dangerman Macilai.
Milner-Skudder went off with a leg injury in the second half, but should be all right for next week.
Newton Tudreu went to fullback and Jaxon Tagavaitau made his debut on the wing.
Who played for Manawatu: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder (Jaxon Tagavaitau 67), 14 Newton Tudreu, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Willie Paia'aua, 10 Jade Te Rure, 9 Papa Wharewera (Kayne Hammington 55), 8 Antonio Kiri Kiri (James Oliver), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Keepa Mewett (Fraser Stone), 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman (Nick Grogan), 1 Hubert Buydens (Chris Eves 50). Scorers: Manawatu 28 (Antonio Kiri Kiri, Hamish Northcott, Callum Gibbins, tries; Jade Te Rure 3 pen, 2 con) Northland 23 (Sonatane Takalua, Filipo Nakosi, tries; Dan Hawkins 2 pen, 2 con, Mathew Wright pen) HT: 9-6.