New Zealand domestic rugby flexed its muscles this weekend with Round 1 of the Mitre 10 Cup getting underway in style with some great displays.
Canterbury, Waikato, Auckland, Tasman, Northland, Taranaki and Southland kicked off their campaigns with convincing victories in a round which produced only a couple of close results.
The tournament commenced with a cracker as old foes North Harbour and Canterbury did battle at QBE Stadium on Friday evening. The rumbling, unstoppable machine that is the Canterbury forward pack laid a platform of such solidity that it never seemed that North Harbour would emerge as winners, despite some brilliant play, particularly from their outside backs. Canterbury scored 6 tries to North Harbour’s 2 for a final score of 43-29.
In a largely unexpected result, Waikato turned the screws on last year’s runners-up Wellington in a 53-28 drubbing at the Waikato Stadium. With a clinical and committed display, Waikato took full advantage of their opportunities while feeding off of Wellington’s waves of mistakes and ill-discipline. Damian McKenzie had a noteworthy performance, bagging a try and slotting 5 conversions and 6 penalties.
Auckland hit the ground running in their fixture against Otago with the scoreboard at half-time displaying 24-6 to the visitors. Some resolute Otago defence in the second stanza slowed Auckland’s charge yet their dominance on the game remained.
Last year’s champions Tasman travelled to ECOLight Stadium and buried Counties Manukau 41-24. While the home side looked as if they might be commencing a comeback in the latter stages of the first half, it was swiftly cut down by Tasman who continued their unstoppable assault for the remainder of the match.
Northland were late risers in their encounter with Manawatu, finding themselves 20-3 down before hitting a rhythm and pulling off a great comeback to emerge 43-26 victors at the final whistle.
The penultimate game of the round saw Taranaki breathe a sigh of relief after their win over Bay Of Plenty with just seven points separating the teams at the end. Taranaki posted 6 tries to The Bay’s 4 for a final score of 36-29.
Southland and Hawke’s Bay wrapped up Round 1 with the former taking the honours 16-10. Hawke’s Bay looked strong in the first half and led at half-time in difficult conditions before Southland mustered their troops, clawing back the lead and, ultimately, the game. Both hookers came away with a brace of tries as the ball was kept close in to the forward packs as a result of the rainy weather.