The "Counties" chant went up from the crowd with more than 25 minutes to play in today's Ranfurly Shield match.
Not to urge the men in red, black and white on, it was just in appreciation to how well they had seen off the limp challenge from Taranaki.
The bumper crowd of 12,000 who filled the stand and much of the embankment were not in for an edge of your seat finish, so they could enjoy the last quarter of the match, safe in the knowledge their boys will be holding on to the shield for longer than Otago and Hawke's Bay managed in 2013.
The 44-7 scoreline was nothing short of what Counties Manukau deserved because they had this game in the bag very early.
Any hope the challengers had of taking the shield south were gone inside the first 40 minutes.
If Counties coach Tana Umaga had demanded his side start well then he got his wish because there was one team playing with the urgency the occasion required and the other team was Taranaki.
The visitors just didn't know how to hold on to the ball as they gifted it back to Counties at numerous rucks and tackles in the first half.
Hooker Hika Elliot was first to get over the tryline in just the fourth minute when he crosssed from some pretty simple work down the blind.
It was an area Counties would prosper over the next 20 minutes as lock Jimmy Tupou and wing Frank Halai also crossed to have most of the crowd at ECOLight Stadium in raptures.
Add in a couple of penalties from Baden Kerr and the holders were crusiing at the break as they took a 25-0 lead.
Taranaki did have a chance to get back into the game, ever so slightly, when No 8 Blade Thomson crossed in the 40th minute but referee Nick Briant referred the try to the television match official who ruled blindside flanker Mitchell Crosswell had held opposite Adam Cathcart back from the 5m scrum.
Counties deserved the margin at the break, too, because they were far the better team, showed more urgency and simply wanted to play rugby.
By comparison, Taranaki looked disorganised, lacked penetration, especially through the midfield as they simply passed the ball across and back.
No wonder the Counties crowd stood to a man and applauded their side off after the first half because they knew the shield was safe for another week.
The big question now is whether Counties can see off an improving Waikato side on Saturday when an equally big crowd is likely to be chanting "Counties" for a bit longer.
COUNTIES MANUKAU (Frank Halai 2, Hika Elliot, Jimmy Tupou, Kane Hancy, Rey Lee-Lo tries; Baden Kerr 3 cons, 2 pens, Ashee Tuala con) TARANAKI (Carl Carmichael try; Beaudein Waaka con) HT: 25-0.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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