Mitre 10 Cup: Sonny Bill Williams' Counties Manukau fall to Taranaki in Pukekohe

As much as he tried, Sonny Bill Williams couldn't inspire Counties Manukau to victory over Taranaki in Pukekohe.  

The Rugby World Cup hopeful played 80 industrious minutes in the Mitre 10 Cup clash, proving a handful in between a few frustrating handling errors. 

The 34-year-old escaped the match without injury and should be in contention for the All Blacks Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies in Auckland next weekend. 

Counties' 34-29 loss was a frustrating one for a Premiership side desperate for points against Championship opposition. 

However, Taranaki could prove to be the bullies of the second-tier this season, if their attacking performance against the Steelers is anything to go by. 

Counties drew first blood through powerful winger Kirisi Kuridrani in the opening five minutes, but the lead would be short, with Sean Wainui crashing over two minutes later for the amber and blacks. 

The points would come thick and fast during the first 40 minutes, with Taranaki scoring a further three tries through Waisake Naholo, Lachlan Boshier and a penalty try awarded by referee Angus Mabey.

But Counties would prove the better side in the second half as they attempted to turnaround a 29-19 deficit. They came close, but despite a Dan Hyatt try late in the piece, Taranaki wouldn't be denied. 

Hyatt's try closed the gap to five points in the final three minutes, but the visitors wrapped the ball up and ran the clock down to score a vital opening-round win. 

Newshub.