Taranaki, Counties Manukau stalemate in rain

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 21:47 14/08/2014
Maama Vaipulu
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BORING OLD GAME: Maama Vaipulu makes a charge for Counties Manukau against Taranaki but there was little to like about the game.

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If the New Zealand Rugby Union wanted the national provincial championship to start with a flurry of tries then it probably picked the wrong venue and the wrong team to kick things off.

The west coast of either island is notorious for its poor weather in August, so it didn't make too much sense for the men in power to schedule the NPC opener in New Plymouth.

Still, it was a Thursday night, so the audience was probably its lowest for the opening week's action.

Add in the fact that Taranaki were coming off their worst season for scoring tries since 1921 and tonight's game was always favoured to be a damp squib.

It lived up to its billing, with Taranaki and Counties Manukau playing out a 9-9 draw.

Try scoring opportunities were as rare as exposed skin in the stands in the opening 40 minutes as a swirling wind and heavy showers made conditions more than awkward.

Taranaki had the best chance after Codey Rei made a nice break following a delicate pass from centre Charlie Ngatai.

Unfortunately for the home fans, Rei opted to chip ahead when there looked an opportunity to pass inside, his kick going dead despite a desperate chase from Marty McKenzie.

Taranaki should have converted another chance close to the line but hooker Rhys Marshall's throw was adjudged to be not straight.

It was a familiar theme in the first half as referee Nic Bryant almost went through the 15 point check list of infringements the NZRU wanted policed strictly.

Sadly for the fans who braved the terrible conditions, Bryant's lack of empathy for the appalling weather or his inability to let even the slightest thing go meant the opening 40 minutes was stop-start.

The two sides rushed to the shed at the break with Taranaki leading 6-0 after Rei slotted two penalties, the first of which was 45m out.

There was, however, more to like about the home side's play as they genuinely looked more threatening with the ball, while their defence seldom looked tested.

The third quarter followed the path of the opening two, although there was at least a referral to the the television match official. It was turned down.

If Taranaki's attack lacked polish then Counties Manukau must be keeping theirs hidden until net week's Ranfurly Shield defence because they barely threatened the line.

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Still, they did not need to as the boot of Baden Kerr almost got them home before McKenzie stepped up and slotted the 79th minute equalizer.

TARANAKI 9 (Codey Rei 2 pens, Marty McKenize pen) COUNTIES MANUKAU 9 (Baden Kerr 2 pens, Ahsee Tuala pen) . HT: 0-6.

- Taranaki Daily News

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