Waikato have bounced back to keep their NPC finals hopes alive with a hard fought 31-27 victory over the Wellington Lions at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Tuesday.
A win was vital for both sides, considering how tight the competition is with one round remaining and it was the Mooloo Men that took the points.
The Lions scored a terrific counter attacking team try at the end, finished off by fullback Apoua Stewart, to grab a possibly crucial bonus point, but were undone earlier in the second half by a committed Mooloo side who overhauled a half-time Lions lead and kept their noses in front over the last quarter of the match.
Behind 20-31 with 15 minutes still to play, the Lions were unable to secure enough quality possession to close the gap against the home side that had its tails up following three consecutive penalties to fullback Trent Renata followed by what proved to be the match winning try to left wing Tim Mikkelson.
* In the other match on Tuesday the Bay of Plenty Steelers emerged from a prolonged slump to dump NPC champions Canterbury at Mt Maunganui.
The home side ended a four-match losing streak by winning 35-31 to preserve their hopes of qualifying for the premiership Final.
Flyhalf Chris Noakes provided the star turn with a quality goal-kicking return of eight from 10 for a personal haul of 25 points.
A rousing first half performance, when Bay of Plenty led by a scarcely believable 29-3, was followed by a Canterbury revival which netted them four tries and made the outcome inconclusive until the final whistle.
The serious spadework for an upset was done before half-time as Bay of Plenty cut Canterbury to bits with an aggressive, physical and unrelenting approach.
Scorers and scorers for Thursday's matches:
Waikato 31-27 Wellington:
Tries: Speight, Tokula, Mikkelson
Cons: Renata 2
Pen: Renata 4
Tries: Leuia, Hobbs, Stewart
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tim Mikkelson, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Marty Holah (captain), 6 Matt Vant Leven, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben May, 2 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vance Elliott, 17 Nathan White, 18 Chris Middleton, 19 Zack Hohneck, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Rena Schuster, 22 Frank Halai, 23 Ted Tauroa.
Wellington: 15 Apoua Stewart, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Alipate Leiua, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush (captain), 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Reg Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Arden David-Perrot, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Joe Latta, 19 Dean Brunsdon, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Michael Lealava'a, 22 Steve Honey, 23 Solomona Sakalia.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
BOP 35-31 Canterbury:
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Arnold, Bourke
Cons: Noakes 2
Pens: Noakes 6
Tries: Romano, Heinz, Crotty, Veainu
Cons: Bleyendaal 4
Bay of Plenty: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Steve Kefu, 11 Ben W Smith, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Jamie Nutbrown, 8 Colin Bourke (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Leon Power, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Daniel Perrin, 1 Bronson Murray.
Replacements: 16 John Pareanga, 17 Tristan Moran or Greg Pleasants-Tate, 18 Luke Andrews, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Nick McCashin, 22 Jason Hona, 23 Pingi Tala'apitaga.
Canterbury: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Nasi Manu,
7 Matt Todd, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Luke Romano, 4 George Whitelock (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Paea Fa'anunu.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Joel Everson, 19 Aaron McCoy, 20 Takerei Norton, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Telusa Veainu, 23 Andrew Olorenshaw.
Referee: Chris Pollock
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