Turbos come up short in Shield Challenge
Waikato defend the Ranfurly Shield with a 19-10 win over Manawatu.
An error-ridden Turbos performance has meant a promising first half lead was squandered on a dismal night in Hamilton.
Consistent rain leading up to the game meant conditions were tough to negotiate for both teams. However, Waikato were able to keep their composure, outshining the Turbos in most facets of the game.
The slippery conditions proved too much for the Turbos as knock-ons really hurt their ability to move forward with any kind of momentum.
A total of 23 turnovers were conceded by Manawatu, which contributed to a lack in possession. Their inability to string multiple phases together ultimately killed any chance of scoring points in the second half.
Turbos captain, Callum Gibbins, was up front regarding his assessment of their performance. “Yeah, we didn’t look after the ball well enough and gave away a few silly penalties and they capitalised on it.”
Gibbins, who showed his passion throughout the game, was proud of how his team played but saw those vital mistakes as the difference between winning and losing. “I’m proud of the way we played and it was almost there, just a couple of things didn’t go our way. Drop a couple of balls like that and the game’s over.”
He finished by further lamenting those crucial errors while commending his team’s ability to stay in the game. “We talked about staying in the fight and I think we did it, just a couple of mistakes [let us down].”
The game started off with a strong atmosphere of excitement that is associated with Shield rugby. Waikato welcomed back two All Blacks in the form of fullback, Damian McKenzie and reserve halfback, Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
With rain pouring down, Manawatu began to let errors creep into their game as they tried to acclimatise to the conditions. A strong run from Turbos fullback, Jason Emery, lead to Gibbins falling just short of the Waikato line. However, the ball was ripped away and Waikato survived an early scare.
Returning All Black, McKenzie, showed his worth with some excellent touches along with some quality kicks, deep into the Manawatu half. The physicality of a strong Waikato side was evident from the outset and would soon prove a telling factor in the game.
It took 12 minutes until the first points scoring chance came for Manawatu, in the form of a penalty a long way out. However, in his first miss of the season, Otere Black failed to put three on the board for the Turbos. His Waikato counterpart in McKenzie had no such troubles, knocking over a long penalty just a minute later.
By the 20-minute mark, the consistent mistakes from the Turbos meant they had little possession. The backline had barely seen the ball which left minimal opportunities for offensive plays. Nevertheless, Manawatu were the first to cross the try-line with what will be one of the most spectacular tries of the 2016 season. A misjudged cross kick by McKenzie, deep in Manawatu territory, saw an interception from wing, Newton Tudreu who accelerated up the field. As he sprinted further into the Waikato half, a well-placed kick to Ambrose Curtis, who called upon his soccer skills, to propel the ball over the line and score the first try of the match.
At 3-7, the game began to even out as Manawatu were matching the energy and effort of Waikato and were soon holding the ball for long periods of time. Two penalties to Waikato and one to Manawatu saw the halftime score-line at 9-10. 13 turnovers leading to 33% in possession was something Manawatu had to fix, should they claim the famous log of wood.
In the second spell the Turbos started well, applying pressure and forcing errors from the Mooloos, but didn’t reap the rewards with a try opportunity turned down by the TMO. A simple miss from McKenzie meant the score stayed the same until second-five Willis Halaholo dived over for Waikato after 54 minutes. Despite calls of controversy from the commentators, the referee was happy to award the try as Waikato moved out to a 16-10 lead.
In what was a mediocre night with the boot, McKenzie missed another simple penalty kick which kept Manawatu in the hunt. However, scrappy game play and a lack of discipline meant the Turbos couldn’t capitalise on these missed chances.
In the last 20 minutes, Waikato’s defence really turned it on, making big tackles and pilling on the pressure, making it that much harder for Manawatu to stage a comeback. Issues at the line out have persisted over recent weeks and tonight was much of the same with inconsistency rife in that part of the game.
Another penalty kick from McKenzie pushed their lead out to nine and despite a resurgence with minutes on the clock, Manawatu failed to add to their half time score and were unable to win the Ranfurly Shield.
The consistent theme of a strong first half followed by a dismal second half performance is becoming evident in the Turbos as this season progresses. The mistakes, while encouraged by the conditions, will be something Manawatu will look to address before they play away to North Harbour next week.
Waikato: 19 (Willis Halaholo tries, Damian McKenzie 1 con, 3 pens).
Manawatu: 10 (Ambrose Curtis tries, Otere Black 1 con, 1 pen).
HT: 10-9 Manawatu
Adam Pearse: Turbos Reporter.