First five-eighths Jack Cameron found his radar at the right moment to guide Taranaki to a 24-all draw with Hawke's Bay in New Plymouth last night.
Cameron slotted three penalty goals in the final 11 minutes, including one in the 78th minute, to earn Taranaki a well-deserved draw and two vital points in the Air New Zealand Cup rugby competition.
Cameron's radar was off beam earlier in the night at one stage he had managed only two from seven attempts at goal and the home side's chances of staying in touch with one of the competition favourites were fading fast.
But the groans that accompanied his early kicks at goal as they shaved the uprights were replaced by cheers as he slotted his last three all from wide out.
Taranaki couldn't have hoped for a better start to the match, with Cameron scoring after only three minutes and adding the conversion. A penalty goal by Matt Berquist for Hawke's Bay narrowed the gap to 7-3 and that was the way it stayed until midway through the first half.
The Bay then exploded into life. First a blindside attack launched by halfback Chris Eaton and carried on by hooker Hika Elliot took play deep into the Taranaki 22. The ball was spun quickly to the right and wing Jason Kupa had an easy run to the line.
Every time Taranaki looked to have quelled the attack, the Bay managed to keep the ball alive with centre and captain Jason Shoemark taking the final pass to score close enough for Berquist to convert. Twelve points in two minutes and a lead of 15-7.
Such were the quality of the attacks, many in the crowd were thinking the Bay would steamroll Taranaki as it did Auckland two weeks ago.
But Taranaki fought back, with Cameron and Berquist trading kicks and the Bay going to the break 18-10 ahead.
Cameron missed three kicks in the third quarter, one hitting the upright while Berquist was successful with his only attempt. At 21-10 things were going along nicely for the Bay.
Some sloppy Bay work from the kickoff allowing the ball to bounce gave Taranaki a chance. Hooker Laurence Corlett managed to flick a pass in the tackle up to All Blacks lock Jason Eaton who crashed over. It was just the spark needed to ignite the home crowd of 6593.
Cameron's three late penalty goals gave him 19 points for the match and denied Bay its second win of the season.
Taranaki and Hawke's Bay now have the same record one win, one loss and a draw.
Cameron's allround kicking was sound, with second five-eighths Jayden Hayward always a threat with the ball in hand. Flanker Scott Waldrom made it through 70 minutes of rugby in his return to the starting side after injury, while Eaton and fellow lock Craig Clarke guaranteed Taranaki a steady supply of quality lineout ball.
Elliot reminded the All Blacks selectors of his talents.
Hawke's Bay (J Kupa J Shoemark tries, M Berquist con 4 pen).
Taranaki (J Cameron J Eaton tries, Cameron con 4 pen). Ht: 18-10.
- Sunday Star Times
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