Defence counted as much as attack last night
When the Manawatu Turbos beat the Southland Stags 27-17 last night, it was the first time in three seasons they had won two games in a row.
The previous streak was in 2011, when they beat Waikato at home and Tasman at Nelson.
That same year, they got two skeletons on the Boneyard, when they felled North Harbour and Taranaki.
Last night, they needed one more try for the bonus point, however, the four-pointer propelled Manawatu into a tie for third on the Championship table.
Next are two trips to the South Island, against Otago next Friday and against Canterbury the following Wednesday.
To compound that, the Turbos had a string of wounded soldiers after last night.
Among them were two of the attacking stars, wing Nehe Milner-Skudder (knee, hamstring) and centre Jason Emery (shoulder).
Milner-Skudder's spot tackle followed by a Tevita Taufu'i steal set up Papa Wharewera's try from long range eight minutes before halftime.
When the forwards gave them onward momentum, the backs were able to cut up, their hot hands and switches marooning the maroons.
It started with the diminutive halfback Wharewera who, as a soldier, fulfilled his sniper duties against Stags almost twice his size, and he stole turnovers.
Wharewera was applauded by the crowd when he was subbed off. He was so on fire he could have stayed, but the coaches wanted to get Nic Stirzaker on to spread the message to spread the ball.
And they would have profited from continuing to run at the Stags.
Second-five Taufu'i had the best of his 19 games for the Turbos since 2009, this time with a teddy bear on his chest. He is a quasi-loose forward, wins turnovers and was a muscular handful for the Stags' tacklers.
Sadly, No 8 James Oliver came off with his shoulder hanging because he revelled in getting his hands on the ball and taking it to his father Frank's old province.
First-five Jade Te Rure is learning the trade but his burst past a mismatched, lead-footed hooker set up Emery for his try, and his goalkicking gave the Turbos space.
Again, though, the Turbos gave their loyal fans kittens by having to do so much defending in the final quarter. Again they didn't succumb, although Chiefs fullback Robbie Robinson spewed a ball with the line open five minutes from time.
One of these days, the Turbos are going to win stress-free, once they get that lineout sorted, because it threatens to plague the season.
Southland's second try in the middle of the second half came after the Turbos messed up another lineout.
Southland didn't have much going for them on attack. Their forte was the maul from the lineout and they stunned the Turbos with just such a try with only eight minutes gone.
Thankfully, giant prop Jamie Mackintosh was up with the coaches, suspended.
The Turbos gave Southland too much ball. But the scrum was on top, the mobile Chris Eves and Ma'afu Fia propping powerfully.
Again repairs are needed, like asking fullback Lewis Marshall not to let the ball bounce, Antonio Kiri Kiri to pass when he made his sideline dash, and for someone please to scoop up kickoffs.
Argentine referee Francisco Pastrana rewarded Manawatu's work at the breakdown, pinged Southland twice and Manawatu once for crooked scrum feeds and for players flying off their feet.
Who played for Manawatu: 15 Lewis Marshall, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder (Nike Malo 53), 13 Jason Emery (Nathan George 68), 12 Tevita Taufu'i, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Jade Te Rure, 9 Papa Wharewera (Nic Stirzaker 54), 8 James Oliver (Daniel Squire 61), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Antonio Kiri Kiri HT), 5 Michael FitzGerald, 4 Fraser Stone, 3 Ma'afu Fia (Hubert Buydens 56), 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Chris Eves.
Scorers: Manawatu 27 (Jason Emery 15, Papa Wharewera 32, Fraser Stone 46, tries; Jade Te Rure 3 con, 2 pen), Southland 17 (John Hardie 8, Tim Boys 55, tries; Marty McKenzie, Scott Eade con; McKenzie pen) HT 17-7.
Possession M47% S53.
Territory: M45 S55.
Penalties awarded: M11 S9.
Lineouts won: M8 S14.
Lineouts lost: M2 S1.
Turnovers conceded: M14 S15.
- Manawatu Standard