After being on the receiving end of two one-point losses this Mitre 10 Cup season, it was third time lucky for the Steelers at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday evening, 8th October 2016.
Joe Reynolds kicked a penalty from out in front right on full time to steal the victory 16-14 over Championship leaders Otago in Dunedin.
Counties Manukau were dangerous from the get go, with Luteru Laulala and Richard Judd making a number of early breaks. It didn’t take long for skipper Jimmy Tupou to score the first points of the match, dotting down under the posts, with Piers Francis converting.
The visitors had a lot of the possession in the first half, but were unable to turn that into points. Judd continued to cause havoc, finding plenty of holes and defending well. Otago struck back in the 18thminute through Craig Millar after the hosts had a number of pick and go’s. Scott Eade converted and levelled the score at 7-7.
Piers Francis kicked the only other points of the first half, nailing a penalty to give the Steelers a 10-7 lead at the break.
Replacement prop Pauliasi Manu started the second half, coming into the game for Sean Bagshaw and then shortly after Hika Elliot made his way onto the field in his 100th NPC appearance. Both sides were unable to make the most of their opportunities early on in the second spell, but in the 52nd minute Otago No.8 Naulia Dawai broke the deadlock and Eade converted the try to put the hosts in front 14-10.
Steelers coach Darryl Suasua then cleared his bench, bringing on Toni Pulu, Sione Faletau, Onosa’i Auva’a, Joe Reynolds, Jonathan Taumateine and Matt Vaai in relatively short succession. Reynolds took over the kicking duties and slotted a long range penalty to close the gap to 14-13 with 13 minutes left on the clock.
Otago had a scoring opportunity go astray with four minutes to go, before conceding a penalty to allow Piers Francis to kick for touch. The Steelers executed a huge rolling maul with Hika Elliot directing from the back. They found themselves deep in Otago territory and managed to secure a penalty right out in front.
Up stepped Joe Reynolds. He was cool, calm and collected and nailed it with just seconds remaining. The final kick off was collected by the Steelers and they held on for the victory.
As of early Saturday evening, Counties Manukau were sitting in second place on the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership table, below Canterbury.
Counties Manukau Rugby would like to congratulate hooker Hika Elliot on reaching the remarkable feat of playing 100 first class NPC games.
Otago 14 (Craig Millar, Naulia Dawai tries; Scott Eade 2 cons)
Counties Manukau 16 (Jimmy Tupou tries; Piers Francis, Joe Reynolds 2 pens; Piers Francis cons)
The Steelers final home game of the regular season is a big one against Canterbury at ECOLight Stadium on Saturday 15 October at 2:35pm. Tickets for that match are available for purchase at the CMRFU Office at ECOLight Stadium during office hours (Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5pm) or atwww.iticket.co.nz or at the Gate on game day. In the Grandstand, Adults cost $20, Students $15 and Kids $10. Kids 13 & Under are FREE on the South Auckland Motors Embankment thanks to Pak ‘n’ Save Pukekohe. It’s also Kids Eat Free, where Kids 13 & Under will get a free meal. We will be posting more information about this on our website www.steelers.co.nz and on our social media channels on Monday.