Match Report: Turbos vs. Waikato
Manawatu Turbos let chances slip as Waikato took home the win on Saturday afternoon, surviving a fightback from the Turbos for a 28-21 win.
Once again the Turbos ended well, but started poorly, something Hamiora Thomas identified as their problem. “We're firing in the second half, so we need to bring that intensity probably to our warm ups. It takes us a while to warm-up”. Waikato came up looking like a totally different side to the one that scored just one try against Tasman last week. The men from Hamilton, with All Blacks Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the starting side, went about starving the Turbos of possession, as they constantly looked to create scoring opportunities. While they made a number of mistakes, they also forced plenty off mistakes from the Turbos as well, and dominated the first quarter of the game. The Turbos found their feet late in the first half, but came up against a staunch defensive system.
That was while Waikato were at full strength anyway. The visitors' discipline left a lot to be desired, and they conceded two yellow cards just before and just after halftime to let the Turbos fight their way back into the contest. The Turbos rediscovered their attacking flair, stringing together some prolonged periods of play and finally making their passes stick. However, just when they everything to click in order to hit the front, they stalled as Waikato regathered momentum. Just like the first half though, the Turbos had the better of the final few minutes, but just like last week, their comeback fell short.
As they did last week, the Turbos made a sluggish start, conceding the opening try after just one minute. Up and coming youngster Shaun Stevenson came away with the spoils from long range, set up by All Black halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Try. Damian McKenzie slotted a penalty shortly after, to give Waikato an 8-0 lead in as many minute.
It was almost as if the Turbos had learnt nothing from their match against Counties last week, again struggling to get their hands on the ball and spending most of the opening opening ten minutes defending in their own 22m.
They could take solace in the fact that they defended well, forcing mistakes from Waikato, but they also gave away penalties and another three points were added to Waikato's tally by McKenzie. Errors put the Turbos under pressure, and under pressure, Thomas was yellow carded. Loni Uhila ensured Waikato made the most of their one-man advantage, charging over from close range.
Once Thomas returned from the sin bin, the Turbos turned up the heat and started playing the more exciting brand of rugby the fans have come to know and love. When they got close to the line they had to revert to pick and gos, and while it wasn't pretty, it was effective. A yellow card to Jordan Payne gave them an advantage of their own, but they couldn't capitalise, and trailed 18-0 at halftime.
Whatever Jason O'Halloran said to his troops at halftime, it worked a treat. Barely two minutes after the break, the Turbos were back in the hunt after a sensational try. Jason Emery started and finished a 90m move, thanks to a long run from Thomas.
Waikato were doing themselves no favours though, as just when Payne returned, Kerr-Barlow was binned for a deliberate knock down of his own. That set the Turbos well on another comeback trail, with a try to Fraser Armstrong closing Waikato's lead to 18-14 after 51 minutes.
The Turbos went searching for a third unanswered try, but their execution let them down. As Thomas alluded to, handling is an issue for himself and the squad. “There are sme things I need to work on, especially just holding the ball and seeing opportunities”. Instead they had to watch as McKenzie gave his side three more points, to take them seven points clear heading into the final quarter. With a try in the 67th minute, McKenzie put his team in front by two converted tries.
With seven minutes to go the Turbos set up another thrilling finish for the second week in a row. Nathan Tudreu showed some deft footwork to score in the corner, while Otere Black stepped up to land the difficult conversion. The hosts played some scintillating rugby as the clock ticked down, but couldn't do enough to get a late draw.
The Turbos next match is an away fixture against Tasman next Thursday.
Waikato-28 (Shaun Stevenson, Loni Uhila, Damian McKenzie tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 3 pen)
Manawatu Turbos-21 (Jason Emery, Fraser Armstrong, Nathan Tudreu tries; Otere Black 3 con)