Had the Turbos been able to call on eight Hamish Goslings at Albany yesterday, they would've knocked North Harbour for six, instead of losing 44-30.
His exemplary performance in part camouflaged the Turbos' eighth loss, as did their fightback to score four tries for a precious bonus point.
These Turbos are short on horsepower and go through horrible tackling lapses, as they did yesterday when Harbour packed on a nauseous 21 points in 18 minutes.
But Gosling had galloped over from halfway after intercepting a pass from giant No8 Mathew Luamanu to put Manawatu in front.
He was forgiven for spilling the subsequent kickoff. And for riling up the big lump from Upper Hutt, Luamanu, who sprinted like Lomu through a grand canyon in the Turbos' defences for three tries; one, the softest of the year.
Gosling, though, will escape the Turbos' cull late next month, and he deservedly escaped being subbed off yesterday.
"I was trying my heart out," he said. "I felt good and it was a pretty fast game. If I hadn't got my try, they probably would have scored at the other end."
But when the Harbourites went scoring mad to lead 31-11 into the westerly at halftime, the few greens in the crowd of 3100 feared Whangarei II, 77 or worse. It had been scary enough at 10-0 down after eight measly minutes.
They did respond with two tries in 10 minutes, the second after 15 patient phases, to trail 34-23 and frighten Harbour back into kicking goals.
That's how the Turbos can ward off their tackling tremors, by holding the ball themselves.
"The boys were pumped before the game, the drive was there," Gosling said. "I was proud of them for coming out in the second half and not lying down."
Harbour have a lofty lineout, had 10 throws to Manawatu's three in the first half, and Gosling said they were caught out by Harbour walking straight in and throwing the ball quickly and to the back.
That gave the Harbour backs a supersonic start and the Turbos tacklers didn't react, so they became Harbour's doormat. Losing lineouts in the second half lost them momentum too.
If there is to be a meritorious loss in a dirge of a season, this was it. It was only the third time in five seasons the usually homesick Turbos have scored four tries away from home.
And the fourth in the final second was a beauty, started by wing Lote Raikabula and finished off 80 metres away by skipper Frankie Bryant. The Harbour crowd generously applauded the Turbos for that.
But the Turbos are averaging 47 points against per away game and that is colossal.
On yesterday's performance, locks Fraser Stone and Michael FitzGerald, hooker Rob Foreman, halfback Aaron Smith and outside backs Hadleigh Parkes – now the workhorse of the backline – Shannon Paku and Craig Clare might command spots next year.
Paku didn't spare himself in the tackle and Clare ran as hard as he has all season.
The Turbos still send too many foragers into breakdowns and that left annoying overlaps when Harbour attacked.
The propping situation is hurting with all of them injured, Karl Haitana on one leg and getting caught in the backline, the ball being turned over, setting off the smoke alarms.
But they did score three tries to one softie in the second half, winning it 19-13.
They can leap into 11th place if they can stun Tasman for the first time next Sunday.
Who played for Manawatu: 15 Craig Clare, Shannon Paku, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Frankie Bryant, 11 Casey Stone (Lote Raikabula 59), 10 Isaac Thompson (Junior Tomasi Cama 63), 9 Aaron Smith; 8 Hamish Gosling, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 James Oliver, 5 Fraser Stone, 4 Michael FitzGerald (Reece Robinson 27, FitzGerald 34), 3 Maafu Fia (Sean O'Connor 72), 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Donal McNamara (Karl Haitana 47).
Scorers: North Harbour 44 (Mathew Luamanu 3, 25m, 33m, 36m, Ken Pisi 8m, Nafi Tuitavake 70m, tries; Michael Harris 2 pen, 4 con; Ben Botica pen, con) Manawatu 30 (Hamish Gosling 18m, Michael FitzGerald 42m, Craig Clare 50m, Frankie Bryant 80m, tries; Isaac Thompson 2 pen, con; Clare con) HT 31-11.
Stats: Penalties awarded: M 11 NH 10 . Lineouts won: M 6 NH 13, lost M 2 NH 2.
- Manawatu Standard
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