Waikato is under threat of Premiership relegation after losing again, this time to Counties Manukau 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato this evening.
Credit: Sportal NZ
Counties ran in four tries to secure a bonus point while Waikato could only muster three penalties in a one sided affair on a wet night in Hamilton.
While the chances of making the finals are gone, Waikato will take heart out of a performance where their young side never gave up. But the problem for the Mooloos now sits in the threat of relegation from the ITM Cup Premiership division.
Waikato struggled to hold possession for the second week in a row, losing out on any chance to score tries, but a superior passing and running game saw Counties keep the match in control throughout.
Captain Brad Weber said the result was disappointing.
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Exciting rugby flowed early but neither side could get into the oppositions red zone.
Shaun Stevenson and Damian McKenzie helped Waikato enjoy healthy territory early but the defense looked unsure against an attacking Counties backline that wasn’t afraid to throw the ball around.
Piers Francis kicked the Counties to a 3-0 lead after Ben Tamiefuna was pinged by the referee for entering the ruck incorrectly.
McKenzie levelled the scores in the thirteenth minute from a kick just inside the halfway line.
A penalty at scrum time gave Waikato the chance to inch in front but McKenzie’s long-range kick fell just short to keep the scores locked 3-3 after a quarter of the game.
Brad Weber sliced through a gap, powered through a tackler and broke downfield before floating a brilliant pass to Dylan Collier on the wing. A desperate diving tackle from Frank Halai saved the try and Counties were able to clear their lines.
As the rain began to bucket down, Francis kicked Counties back into the lead after Waikato was penalised to make the score 6-3.
Penalties began to mount against the home side but the wet conditions made it difficult for Counties to provide good go forward ball, and when Mitch Jacobson was penalised for offside, poor discipline again cost Waikato but they were lucky to not go down by a further three points.
Counties went into the lead at halftime 6-3.
McKenzie missed a chance to level the scores in the opening moments of the second half
Counties pushed through the Waikato forward pack in red zone and when replays clearly showed that Jimmy Tupou had touched the ball down, the first try of the night was awarded. Francis converted and Counties lead 13-3.
McKenzie notched 100 points for the ITM Cup season, but more importantly, inched Waikato to within a seven-point deficit with the last period of the game remaining.
Just as Waikato looked to be back in the match, a mistake under the high ball would cost the Mooloos a try. Sione Fifita clutched a juggled ball out of the air and sprinted away to score the visitors second try of the match, and go a long way toward victory.
Francis failed to convert, but Counties were in command 18-6.
After a long discussion with McKenzie, Waikato captain Brad Weber reluctantly chose to attempt a consolidating three points, and McKenzie didn’t miss as the score changed to 9-11.
Falling off too many tackles, the game looked beyond Waikato, and things got worse when Peni Iowane was yellow carded after being ruled to have tackled without using his arms.
Jordan Taufua powered over as Counties scored their third try of the night, sealing the match, Francis converted to make the score 25-9 as Waikato’s awful night continued.
Frank Halai scored for Counties, and with that, the visitors brought up their bonus point, and the equal biggest win over Waikato in competition history.
The final score was 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato.
At a glance:
Waikato 9 (Damian McKenzie 3 pen)
Counties Manakau 30 (Jimmy Tupou, Sione Fifita, Jordan Taufua, Frank Halai, Piers Francis 2 pen, 2 con,