Mitre 10 Cup: Waikato hold of surging Counties to claim five-point win

Jack Stratton.
Jack Stratton. Photo credit: Image: Getty

Waikato have held on for a nervy 31-26 victory over Counties Manukau at Navigation Homes Stadium - after conceding 19 points in the last 18 minutes of their Mitre 10 Cup match. 

The Mooloos got off to the best possible start with winger Declan O'Donnell using his quick turn of pace to latch on to a Jack Stratton kick and score a remarkable solo effort try to score in the corner. 

Counties absorbed the quick start from the visitors and produced some quality attack to score their own try - Kalione Hala crossing to level the score.

But Waikato hit back with a one-two punch, scoring two tries in two minutes through Bailyn Sullivan and Newton Tudreu to take the score out to 21-7, which is where it stayed until the half-time hooter went, sending the visitors into the sheds up by 14. 

Waikato got straight back into their work in the second half, putting together phases of attractive rugby - flanker Hamilton Burr jogging across the line untouched. 

The home side finally found a way to break the defence of Waikato and it came from a lineout set-piece, captain Sam Henwood scoring.

The hosts were determined to finish well - first five Riley Hohepa broke through for another Counties Manukau try to take the game to 31-19 with seven minutes to go. 

They weren't done yet - Donald Maka scored off another lineout move, a try which saw the gap close to five points with two minutes to go. 

But it was too little too late and the spirited fightback ended there - Counties Manukau falling to their second loss in three games - while Waikato held on for their second win in as many matches. 

Counties will travel to the capital next week where they take on Wellington on Thursday, Waikato will face Auckland on Saturday. 



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