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ITM Cup: Canterbury beat Counties Manukau 28-20

Canterbury returned to the top of the ITM Cup premiership table with a battling 28-20 victory over Counties Manukau.

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The six-time defending champions never hit top gear on Friday and were pushed to the brink by the Steelers in the second half.

Had Counties not wasted 12 points from missed penalties in the first half by Tim Nanai-Williams and Ahsee Tuala, the result would have been very different.

In contrast, Canterbury first-five Tom Taylor only missed one kick - the conversion of Willie Heinz's second-half try - but was on target to convert five-pointers by Matt Todd and Johnny McNicholl and also slotted three penalties.

Counties were guilty of letting Canterbury dictate play early on as the visitors were able to build pressure by regularly getting in behind the advantage line.

The Steelers worked their way back into the match, although that was not reflected on the scoreboard, as they trailed 20-6 at half-time.

Heinz darted over in the 47th minute off the back of a dominant scrum and Canterbury looked comfortable at 25-6 up.

But Counties suddenly went up a gear when coach Tana Umaga turned to his replacements bench.

However, they could not quite overturn the deficit as Canterbury kept them at arm"s length to claim an important win.

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