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Waikato Storm Home To Make Quarterfinals

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 2 NZPA - Waikato surged into the Air NZ Cup rugby quarterfinals with a stirring 45-41 win over Taranaki in Hamilton tonight.

They came out on the right side of the ledger after an 11-try action-packed thriller at Waikato Stadium.

Waikato trailed 0-21 after almost as many minutes then 17-38 with 30 minutes remaining before storming home with a last-minute try to wing Sitiveni Sivivatu to guarantee themselves a place in the playoffs.

The result left them on 25 points, while there was consolation in defeat for Taranaki because the two points they picked up were also enough to cement their playoffs spot.

Taranaki are on 23 points and safely out of reach of the ninth to 11th placed Northland, Tasman and Otago.

Taranaki posted four of their five tries in an extraordinary first half, bookended by touchdowns by hooker Andrew Hore and fullback Jack Cameron in the fourth and 38th minutes.

In between second five-eighth Jayden Hayward and wing Paul Perez also crossed the tryline within the space of three minutes.

They scored in almost identical fashion after stepping inside Waikato No 10 Stephen Donald when Taranaki attacked on the blind from scrums inside the opposition 22.

Donald, the All Blacks first five-eighth, was forced from the field late in the first spell, grimacing and gingerly holding his ribs.

Perez's touchdown in the 22nd minute earned Taranaki a 21-0 lead, which Waikato ate into with tries of their own from Donald following a midfield bust by centre Richard Kahui, and flanker Liam Messam after a break by Sivivatu and a strong run by Tim Mikkelson.

Waikato's injury woes worsened after the break when they lost captain Messam to a hamstring problem.

His departure followed the best of the match's tries when Taranaki wing Shayne Austin capped a 75m move sparked by Scott Waldrom and carried on by fellow flanker Chris Walker, who ran 50m before offloading to Austin.

Ripia's conversion carried Taranaki out to a 38-17 advantage with 30 minutes remaining, which under normal circumstances would have assured them of victory.

But there was nothing normal about this free-flowing match as Waikato showed desperation to hit back with tries to Sivivatu, Hikairo Forbes and Sione Lauaki to draw level at 38-38 after 67 minutes.

Willie Ripia then landed his seventh goal, his 75th-minute penalty coming when Lauaki was sinbinned for infringing at the breakdown.

Down a man and behind by three, Waikato refused to admit defeat, and a sustained period of pressure broke Taranaki's resolve when Sivivatu strolled through a hole to score his second try in the closing seconds.

NZPA WGT md

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