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Counties Manukau book NPC semi-final berth

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/10/2016
Toni Pulu of Counties Manukau scores a try during the round nine Mitre 10 Cup match between Counties Manukau and Canterbury on October 15, 2016 in Pukekohe, New Zealand. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Toni Pulu of Counties Manukau scores a try during the round nine Mitre 10 Cup match between Counties Manukau and Canterbury on October 15, 2016 in Pukekohe, New Zealand.

Counties Manukau have secured a place in the NPC premiership semi-finals with a rousing 33-21 win over Canterbury in Pukekohe.

The hosts scored six tries to two to overwhelm the defending champions, who had already clinched the top spot so chose to rest a number of key players.

Counties Manukau led only 7-6 at halftime and trailed 16-14 entering the final quarter before three rapid-fire tries secured the outcome.

The loss was just the second for the season for Canterbury, ending a four-match winning streak, but they will still host a semi-final next week along with second-placed Taranaki.

The result means sixth-placed Waikato have no chance of reaching the play-offs, leaving Auckland and Tasman as candidates for the fourth play-off berth.

Tasman need a win or draw against Southland in Nelson on Sunday to end Auckland's hopes.

Counties Manukau produced one of the best performances of an inconsistent season.

Saturday's match was a stalemate for 25 minutes, befitting the competition's two best defensive teams.

Canterbury fullback Jordie Barrett landed two penalties to counter the half's only try, to winger Toni Pulu when the visitors were reduced to 14 men following a yellow card shown to hooker Ben Funnell.

Counties Manukau winger Sione Fifita also spent time in the sin bin after the break for a deliberate knock down which allowed Barrett's boot to reclaim the lead for Canterbury.

Props Pauliasi Manu (Counties Manukau) and Daniel Lienert-Brown (Canterbury) traded tries before Pulu's blistering second sparked his team's storming finish.

The Chiefs winger received a wobbly Canterbury clearance and used his pace to outstrip the defence on a 50m run.

Centre Cardiff Vaega and reserve halfback Richard Judd also crossed before Canterbury snatched a late consolation through reserve back Nathan Earle.

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