Waikato fight back to beat Counties
Waikato coach Chris Gibbes got away with resting 10 players from the side that took the Ranfurly Shield on Wednesday night by picking up a come-from-behind win 32-28 over Counties Manukau in Pukekohe.
It was impressive how Waikato got themselves focussed again after the emotional high they were on a few days earlier and this win confirms Waikato's status as a Premiership side next season.
After playing Auckland last weekend, for the second game in a row Counties have lost a nail biter against a team from a division above them, but they were at least able to secure another two competition points.
Waikato had the advantage of playing the first half with the strong wind on their backs, but it was the home side that had the early pressure.
However, as in their game against Auckland last weekend, the Steelers were guilty of giving up the ball by making handling errors in the opposition 22 and they had to rely on a penalty from Tim Nanai-Williams to get the scoring underway.
Then in the 27th minute Sherwin Stowers ran 60m after Waikato spilled the ball to record his fifth try of the year.
Trent Renata got Waikato's scoring underway with a penalty in the 33rd minute and moments before the hooter went Joe Webber ran through a poor tackle from August Pulu to score a try.
The wind had eased by the time the sides ran out for the second half, but again the home side started the brighter with Nanai-Williams gathering a grubber kick from Brendon Leonard and notching up a 60m try of his own.
Rey Lee Lo bombed a try in the 51st minute, but just after his midfield partner Bundee Aki busted through the Mooloo defence for the next Steelers try.
The new Chiefs second-five quickly got his second try to pick up their sixth four-try bonus point of the season.
A Renata penalty and Save Tokula try brought Waikato back to within seven points with 12 minutes left on the clock
But a Ray Laulala penalty stretched the Counties lead again, only for Tokula and Anthony Wise to score tries in the last seven minutes to
(Sherwin Stowers, Tim Nanai-Williams, Bundee Aki 2 tries; Tim Nanai-Williams pen, con, Ray Lualala pen)
(Joe Webber, Save Tokula 2, Anthony Wise tries; Trent Renata 2 pens, 3 cons)