Taranaki hold on to Shield

Waisake Naholo celebrates a try for Taranaki against Manawatu last night. Photo: Getty Images
Waisake Naholo celebrates a try for Taranaki against Manawatu last night. Photo: Getty Images
A 10-minute spell which started with a cynical foul by Manawatu prop Michael Ala'alatoa allowed Taranaki to pile on an unanswered 19 points and retain the Ranfurly Shield in New Plymouth on Wednesday night.

A rampant home side ran in three tries as Ala'alatoa sat in the sin-bin for a professional foul; playing the ball on the ground with his line under siege.

And that was the difference in a 46-25 win.

The win not only locks up the Shield for the summer but seals Taranaki's place at the top of the Premiership table with a game in hand as Canterbury, so long the title favourites, are now unable to peg them back.

Waisake Naholo was sublime in his return to provincial rugby from All Blacks duty and was obviously playing at a different level to those around him.

His one-handed take of a pop pass from second five-eighth Sean Wainui in the 16th minute was followed by an acrobatic dive in the corner for a try which gave the home side an 8-3 lead.

An explosive step and surge by the powerful winger on the stroke of halftime ended a sublime period of power rugby from Taranaki, who went to the break leading 27-6.

Taranaki scored two other tries in the period when they were a man up, both to centre Seta Tamanivalu, who benefitted from good work by athletic flanker Pita-Gus Sowakula and then speedy first five-eighth Stephen Perofeta.

Manawatu had the added agony of losing playmaker Otere Black just before halftime to complete a terrible 10 minutes.

The 10-minute tale was all the more obvious as Manawatu regained some parity in the second spell.

Replacement halfback Jamie Booth, with a jink and dab off the ruck, scored early in the second half before local fans took special delight a few minutes later when Charlie Ngatai, on as a replacement for Wainui and resplendent in fluorescent yellow headgear, hit the attacking line at a perfect angle to further extend the lead to 34-11 as the hour approached.

Rangy winger Ambrose Curtis kept the Turbos' hopes alive and further narrowed the gap.

Manawatu got a glimmer of hope when Taranaki replacement winger Declan O'Donnell was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle off the ball on Jason Emery and the visitors showed their resilience with a try to replacement first five Jade Te Rure who pounced on a loose ball to narrow the deficit to nine points.

But the home side had learned the lesson of playing a man down and held tight before exploding towards the finish line with an acrobatic try to Kylem O'Donnell from a cross-field kick and a finishing burst from replacement loose forward Adrian Wyrill.

Taranaki 46 (Waisake Naholo 2 Seta Tamanivalu 2, Charlie Ngatai, Kylem O'Donnell, Adrian Wyrill tries; Marty McKenzie 1 pen 4 con)

Manawatu 25 (Jamie Booth, Ambrose Curtis, Jade Te Rure tries; Otere Black 2 pen Jade Te Rure 3 con). HT: 27-6.

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