Harbour woes grow while Counties march on

DAVID LONG
Last updated 11:05 05/09/2012
Frank Halai
Photosport
INSPIRED SELECTION: Wing Frank Halai was in fine form for Counties Manukau as they beat North Harbour.

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Counties Manukau coach Tana Umaga and North Harbour boss Liam Barry couldn't have had more polarising views on last night's game between the two sides in Albany.

The 27-15 win to Counties moved them further away from the other unions in the Championship, while this was Harbour's third straight defeat and they are still to register even a bonus point.

Once again Counties picked up the four-try bonus point, but from Umaga's point of view the victory over Harbour didn't just come from the work their talented backs do, but also an impressive forwards display on a wet and windy night.

"The way we played in these conditions was not what Counties Manukau are known for," Umaga said.

"We played a bit smarter than we have in the past and we stuck to a game plan for the whole 80 minutes. We got the five points so we can't argue with that.

"Something we've worked pretty hard on is believing what we can do and having self belief in each other.

"It's definitely an attitude and it's something we've worked on over the preseason with our defence, making sure we get up there and put pressure on."

Counties had it all over Harbour in the scrums last night and Umaga said it was pleasing that they came out on top in the set piece after the frustrating 37-30 loss to Hawke's Bay in Napier last Friday.

"We didn't come out on the right side of the ledger with that against Hawke's Bay, but our guys really stood up [against North Harbour]," the former All Blacks captain said.

"Simon [Lemalu], Mahonri [Schwalger] and the young Matt Talaese have done wonders for us over the first few games and they stuck it out all the way to the end.

"Not just in the scrummaging, but also in getting around the field and the cover tackles our big boys were making, they were getting around everywhere.

"It probably helped that we got stung against Hawke's Bay," he added.

"They did feel that, which is a good thing. They took that loss really hard and they wanted to make amends, which they did."

Another stand out player was wing Frank Halai.

The New Zealand sevens player is looking to get a Super Rugby contract next year and he's certainly playing at a level that will have franchises interested in him.

"Frank is big and strong and he uses that," Umaga said.

"He has performed well in every game he's played for us.

"He is very driven, obviously's come from a good training background and has got good fitness from where he's come.

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"He is determined to do well, we've got a lot of guys that want to play Super Rugby and that's a drive for those guys.

"We're really fortunate that he fell into our lap and Waikato didn't want him."

Meanwhile, Harbour coach Liam Barry found nothing to be pleased about from his side's performance last night.

"It was pretty awful wasn't it?" He said.

"It was just the the smarts, how you play the game. We've got a howling gail behind us and the ball we had we tried to run in the first half and in the second half when we had the ball we didn't run.

"We lost possession, weren't accurate at set piece and weren't chasing in on the ball carrier."

Harbour play Northland in Whangarei on Sunday and it is a much win game if they want to make it into the

Championship semifinals, but Barry admits there are plenty of things to fix up over the next few days.

"You to talk to them and make sure they understand how we want to play and now it's the execution and accuracy that we need to bring to our game because that was tough to watch," he said.

"It is the third game and there is plenty more to come but you wouldn't want us repeating the same performance."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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