The Mitre 10 Cup, New Zealand’s domestic rugby showpiece, got under way Thursday night. Here’s what happened.
Note: In last week’s preview I stated that there would be two referees; six point tries and two point conversions, penalties and drop goals; and amended Laws 15 and 16. I based that on what appeared on the official Mitre 10 Cup website but in the event there was just the one ref and the familiar five-three-three-two scoring system applied. The experimental tackle and breakdown laws are in effect, however.
North Harbour 20-17 Counties Manukau
An entertaining season opener saw an enterprising Harbour hang on against a young Counties side (11 of their 23 were on debut) that showed plenty of intent but made too many unforced errors.
Manawatu 34-27 Northland
A frenetic first half followed by an even more frenetic second saw Manawatu run out winners. Both sides scored four tries, Warren Dunn’s stunner the pick of them:
Taranaki 30-22 Bay of Plenty
Taranaki shot out to a 21-0 lead early in the second half before the Bay sparked into life and very nearly reeled them in. A penalty in the 75th took the visitors beyond reach and denied Bay the consolation bonus point they deserved.
Wellington 36-26 Hawkes Bay
Wellington recovered from a slow and scratchy start to run out bonus point winners, 5/8 Jackson Garden-Bachop the star turn. Hawkes Bay also picked up a four-try bonus point.
Canterbury 43-3 Auckland
Canterbury’s Premiership defence was launched with a record points margin victory over their traditional foe. Auckland fell behind early and in trying to chase the game made numerous errors for which they were made to pay dearly. A questionable sin-binning for a lifting tackle late in the first half didn’t help their cause, but at that point they were already trailing 0-24 and never likely to threaten.
Otago 40-17 Southland
Leading 12-0 after 30 minutes Southland were a chance to cause the first upset of 2016. A dominant second half, however, saw Otago run out comfortable, bonus point winners.
Tasman 24-19 Waikato
Waikato lead for much of the match but a try in the 74th and penalty in the 80th minutes got Tasman home in an absorbing contest. Just three tries were scored but it wasn’t for lack of attacking intent from both sides.
Early days, obviously, but some encouraging signs with plenty of earned turnovers (10 on opening night alone) and aggressive counter-rucking. Still a question of who blinks first, the referees charged with upholding the ELV’s or the coaches and players looking to circumvent them…
ROUND 2 FIXTURES
Thu 25th Otago v Wellington, Dunedin
Fri 26th Manawatu v Southland, Palmerston North
Fri 26th Auckland v Northland, Auckland
Sat 27th Waikato v North Harbour (RANFURLY SHIELD), Hamilton
Sat 27th Taranaki v Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth
Sun 28th Canterbury v Tasman, Christchurch
Sun 28th Counties Manukau v Bay of Plenty, Pukekohe.