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QBE Insurance have overcome tough circumstances to overwhelm Counties Manukau 28 – 19 at Albany Stadium tonight.
The game was potentially over for the home side when second five eighth Andrew Mailei was ordered from the game by the referee after a dangerous tackle on his opposite. Only 21 minutes into the game,
While ahead 3 – 0 at the time of Mailei’s dismissal, Harbour had not used its opportunities well with three gilt edged try scoring opportunities botched. Counties Manukau were battling at the breakdown and scrum time, but quickly took advantage of the backline advantage and a disorganised home team, putting the impressive left wing Sherwin Stowers in for an unconverted try. Tasesa Lavea’s kicking boots again deserted him in a 36 th minute penalty shot from a handy spot and looked as if the Steelers would take a 5 – 3 lead into the break. The Steelers composure deserted them when they conceded a penalty on the stroke of the 40th minute. Mike Harris stepped up and coolly kicked the 48m penalty through the swirling breeze and rain – Harbour led 6 -5.
The second half began with Chris Smylie replaced by Matt France and a period of sorting out as
The introduction of Scott Uren at 7 and James Afoa at loosehead coincided with Mike Harris’ one miss for the night, his penalty attempt just sliding inside the left hand upright. He had another chance as Harbour’s territorial dominance earned a penalty 35 metres out and 10 in from the right hand touchline. Strong work at the restart was capitalised on by Anthony Tuitavake attacking down the Steelers right. The ensuing lineout to Harbour resulted in repeated phases on the Steelers tryline and Rudi Wulf was the one on hand to score the try.
The Steelers hit back 4 minutes after the restart with a bust on the fringes of a maul leading to a try to replacement wing Saimisoni Fisilau. The scores had closed up to 16 – 12 to Harbour and the tension in the crowd rose. The Harbour backs had little mind for it – Vil Ma’afu burst through again and put a grubber kick in. The following tryline phases freed the ball to a hard running Harris and Scott Uren snaffled the ball and drove for his first try of a promising career. Three minutes later Tom Chamberlain completed another Tuitavake burst with a try stretching out. The conversion took the score to 28 – 12 but finished Tuitavake’s work as his groin injury recurred and he was subbed for Ken Pisi. At the same time Mike Mayhew was called in for a rest after another big night’s work.
QBE Insurance then played for field position and shut Counties-Manukau out of the game for the last eight minutes. A last roll of the dice to get a fourth and bonus point try backfired, resulting in a runaway try for Ahsee Tuala for Counties Manukau – giving a final score of 28 – 19 to North Harbour.
Best on Ground:
Counties-Manukau: Sherwin Stowers; DJ Forbes; Rees Logan; Mark Selwyn
Mailei will face the judiciary on Wednesday.