The Counties Manukau Steelers’ Mitre 10 Cup season came to an end against Canterbury at AMI Stadium in Christchurch this afternoon. They showed a lot of heart and determination, but were beaten 22-7 in the semi-final.
The hosts got the scoring underway within the opening minute. The Steelers were penalised for not releasing the ball and Jordie Barrett kicked a penalty right in front to give them an early 3-0 lead.
Counties Manukau had moments when they were hot on attack in the opening 40 minutes, but they were unable to make the most of their opportunities. However, it was their defence that was impressive for most parts of the first half. The Steelers muscled up on defence and were able to hold Canterbury out, until Ben Funnell scored off a line out drive.
Just before halftime, Canterbury found a gap in the Steelers’ defensive line, and Jordie Barrett slipped through to score under the posts. They went into the break with a 17-0 lead, a score line that did not reflect how well Counties Manukau played.
While the Steelers’ defence was relentless, so too was Canterbury’s. They allowed little room for Counties to make in-roads. Toni Pulu was threatening on attack and made a number of breaks, while Onosa’i Auva’a showed his worth with the ball in hand.
Early in the second half, Canterbury appeared to have scored and the try was awarded, before the replay showed the player had gone into touch. The referee then rightly overturned his decision.
20 minutes into the second spell, Counties were hot on attack and it didn’t take long for the impressive Jordan Taufua to barge his way over the line for the Steelers first try of the match. Luteru Laulala quickly kicked the conversion and they closed the gap to 17-7.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Canterbury scored another try, this time out on the right wing through Jack Stratton. Barrett missed the conversion to make it 22-7. To the Steelers credit, and as has been the case throughout the season, they refused to give up and played right until the death. The full time score remained 22-7.
Congratulations to Darryl Suasua, Grant Henson, Semo Sititi and the entire Counties Manukau Steelers squad for an outstanding season. Last week history was created by defeating Canterbury for this first time since 1998 and it was a huge effort to make the semi-finals for the first time since 2013. Bring on 2017!
Canterbury 22 (Ben Funnell, Jordie Barrett, Jack Stratton tries; Barrett 2 cons, 1 pen)
Counties Manukau Steelers 7 (Jordan Taufua tries; Luteru Laulala 1 con)
Photo Credit – Richard Spranger