Counties Manukau Hold Off Resurgent Rockcote Canterbury Bulls

Counties Manukau Hold Off Resurgent Rockcote Canterbury Bulls

Photo Credit: Kevin Clarke – CMG Sports

Counties Manukau Stingrays have held off a fast-finishing Rockcote Canterbury Bulls outfit 28-22 in a thrilling NZRL National Premiership opener at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.

The Stingrays raced out to a 16-point lead in the first half, but the new-look Bulls surged back into contention and were just a goalkick away from drawing level in the dying minutes. Emphasising their courageous effort in fighting back, the Bulls lost key prop Jiordan Fidow-Kele to a head knock early on and finished with two-man bench after back-rower Jesse Rogers was assisted off with a hamstring injury during the second half.

After enjoying the early running, the Bulls found themselves under the pump due to a string of errors and penalties. Powerhouse Stingrays prop Uila Aiolupo barged over from close range and five-eighth William Stowers dummied through to give the visitors a 10-0 lead just 15 minutes in.

Canterbury narrowly missed a chance to hit back when captain Alex Todd was held up over the tryline, while poor execution thwarted subsequent opportunities in good territory.

Counties Manukau went further ahead in the 28th minute as second-rower John Vuetibau spun out of two tackles and dotted down despite the attention of three more defenders. Stowers slotted his second conversion for 16-0.

The hosts belatedly landed on the scoreboard soon afterwards, however, when Bulls debutant Chase Kereama-Williams showed tremendous strength to force his way over from dummy-half only a few minutes after coming off the bench.

Izic Placid nailed the conversion from out wide, but the Bulls’ subsequent attacking raids were repelled and the halftime scoreline remained 16-6 in favour of the Stingrays.

Vuetibau completed his double early in the second half, but Canterbury again responded immediately, big winger Joshua Aileone producing a magnificent put-down in the corner and Placid slotting the conversion from touch to peg the score back to 20-12.

The Stingrays landed another blow in the 54th minute when centre Roydon Gillett caught the Bulls’ defence napping down a short blindside to stroll in for his side’s fifth try. The Bulls endured another setback with Jesse Rogers assisted from the field due to a leg injury.

Canterbury stayed in the contest via a remarkable try to centre Tauvale Tauvale, who managed to get the ball under a swarm of Counties Manukau defenders with inches to spare. Placid landed another booming conversion to cut the deficit to just six points with 13 minutes to go.

A contentious no-try call went against the Stingrays after a hectic last-tackle movement, and the Bulls took full advantage with a spectacular solo try from lock Reuben Te Amo, busting through on the opposition 20-metre line and brushing off Counties fullback Geronimo Doyle.

Agonisingly, Placid – faultless with the boot to that point – cannoned the conversion into the post to leave the Bulls two points in arrears.

A Bulls error in the ensuing set proved crucial, with Gillett putting winger George Edwards in for a try down a narrow corridor and restoring the Stingrays’ six-point buffer.

Canterbury recovered the ball from a short kick-off inside the final two minutes, but their last opportunity to level up the scores came up short, allowing Counties Manukau to take a big step towards featuring in the October 6 final at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls now head to Hamilton for a must-win encounter with Waikato next weekend.

Counties Manukau Stingrays 28 (John Vuetibau 2, Uila Aiolupo, William Stowers, Roydon Gillett, George Edwards tries; Stowers 2 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulls 22 (Chase Kereama-Williams, Joshua Aileone, Tauvale Tauvale, Reuben Te Amo tries; Izic Placid 3 goals) on Sunday, September 17 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch. Halftime: Stringrays 16-6. Referee: Jason Wilson. Touch judges: Dai Roberts, Chris Baker.


1 Erwin Sauni

2 Vinnie Paul

3 Tauvale Tauvale

4 Blake Thompson

5 Josh Aileone

6 Izic Placid

7 Tama Walker

8 Alex Todd

9 Dene Grace

10 Jiordan Fidow-Kele

11 Paul Sauni

12 Jesse Rogers

13 Reuben Te Amo


14 Chase Kereama-Williams

15 Willie Davis

16 Damien Papuni

17 Texas Toleafoa

Coach: Andrew Auimatagi


1 Geronimo Doyle

2 Buchanan Rawhiti

3 David Toetu

4 Roydon Gillett

5 George Edwards

6 Williams Stowers

7 Reece Joyce

8 Uila Aiolupo

9 Luke Armiger

10 Tautalanoa Vanisi

11 John Vuetibau

12 David Faaeteete

13 Reece Charlie


14 Howard Brown

15 Michael Blucher

20 Necrom Areaiiti

17 Kruz Tupou

Coach: Rod Ratu

Fulltime here at AMI Stadium, Counties Manukau Stingrays hanging on for a 28-22 win over Rockcote Canterbury Bulls in a thrilling New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) National Premiership opener.
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Photo Kevin Clarke CMGSPORT
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