North Harbour still chasing first NPC victory
North Harbour were the only NPC rugby team left without a win after Manawatu held on to beat them 15-12 at Palmerston North today.
In a game wracked by a strong south-westerly wind which made goal-kicking almost impossible, Manawatu got their first win by scoring three tries to two.
Both had enough ball towin this one. As it turned out Manawatu won the game a few seocnds after halftime when a slick backline move saw Highlanders centre grubber kick through and wing Nehe Milner-Skudder dotted down.
Manawatu looked to have the game locked up but tired as the minutes counted down and referee Grant Stuart lashed them with penalties. North Harbour had a huge amount of ball in the second spell.
Finally centre Nafi Tuitavake burst down the sideline with just six minutes remaining, brushed off a tackle and Michael Little scored.
Suddenly Harbour sensed blood and hammered the line only to concede a vital penalty.
Harbour led 7-5 at halftime but had the huge benefit of the strong wind.
There was nothing between the two sides, both getting within arm lengths of the tryline but succumbing to desperate defence.
The Turbos struck first after only 10 minutes. Two lineouts on the Harbour line allowed the home team to build patiently before Manawatu No 8 James Oliver burrowed through and his big paw got the ball down.
It took Harbour half an hour to reply when they similarly had heat on the home line and a simple back move saw centre Nafi Tuitavake burst through poor Manawatu midfield defence to tie it up.
First-five Jon Elrick hadn't been able to capitalise on two penalty shots but he guided the conversion over.
Manawatu had kept the ball at hand and flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis especially won a share of breakdown turnovers.
But for anyone, this was Manawatu lock Mike FitzGerald's game on his 50th, and for comeback hooker Robe Foreman.
Scorers: Manawatu 15 (James Oliver, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Rob Foreman, tries) North Harbour 12 (Nafi Tuitavake, Michael Little, tries; Jon Elrick con) HT 5-7.
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