Lions roar in opening round of Bunnings NPC

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But competition heavyweights Auckland and Canterbury played another tough contest before Auckland got a 35-24 win on the back of a hat-trick of tries to wing AJ Lam. Wellington flanker Taine Plumtree was another to post a hat-trick of tries.

Defending champion Tasman took time to subdue Bay of Plenty before enjoying a 27-14 win while Waikato beat North Harbour 28-15.

In the Championship Manawatu, who beat Counties Manukau 39-21, Taranaki who beat Hawke's Bay 33-19 and Otago, who beat Southland 26-19 share the lead on four points.

Bunnings Warehouse NPC Round One results:

Manawatu 39 Counties Manukau 21

Manawatu unleashed on Counties Manukau in the season opener with fullback Drew Wild's opening try making full use of centre Josiah Maraku's fine run and pass, but it was the break, late in the first half by flanker Seamus Hurley-Langton, that cut to the quick before he unloaded to first five-eighths Brett Cameron. The former Canterbury player demonstrated his side-stepping ability to run in a try that gave Manawatu a 23-9 lead at the break. Counties Manukau were not done, however as flanker Alamanda Motuga demonstrated when running onto a perfect pass, and into a gap, to respond. But any hope they had of getting closer foundered on Cameron's goal-kicking boot. He landed six penalty goals to go with his try and three conversions, the last of hooker Ray Niuia's late try, to finish with 29 points.

Manawatu 39 (Drew Wild, Brett Cameron, Ray Niuia tries; Cameron 3 con, 6 pen) Counties Manukau 21 (Alamanda Motuga, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Jarrod Halliday con, 3 pen). HT: 23-9

Taranaki 33 Hawke's Bay 19

Taranaki, playing on Pukekura Park, unleashed some pressure on Hawke's Bay during the first half with hooker Bradley Slater on the back of a lineout maul to score a try that complemented the goal-kicking of first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta as Taranaki got out to a 19-0 lead. Hawke's Bay produced some lineout driving of their own for first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie to score the first of Taranaki's tries in response, with loose forward Devan Flanders repeating the dose just before half-time. Ten minutes into the second half, Slater scored again from a maul on the line. Hooker Ash Dixon produced a trademark break from a lineout maul to get the Bay back within touch with 13 minutes remaining. They tried hard and until the hooter sounded they were a chance. But then, Jayson Potroz loosened Hawke's Bay ball in a tackle. Loose forward Jesse Parete was on hand to tidy up and pass to wing Vereniki Tikoisolomone and his sheer speed did the rest to seal the win and deny Hawke's Bay a bonus point.

Taranaki 33 (Bradley Slater 2, Vereniki Tikoisolomone tries; Stephen Perofeta 3 con, 4 pen) Hawke's Bay 19 (Lincoln McClutchie, Devan Flanders, Ash Dixon tries; McClutchie con; Tiaan Falcon con). HT: 19-12

Wellington 54 Northland 7

You can't beat Wellington on a good day, and Saturday was just about the best conditions in the country at Sky Stadium where the home took only two minutes to unleash flanker Taine Plumtree on the NPC, scoring the first of his three tries running on the left flank. Two minutes later he was in again on the back of a superb break from a ruck by halfback Richard Judd. Hooker Jordan Olsen got one back for Northland, but centre Peter Umaga-Jensen's initial break saw him on hand later in the move score Wellington's next. And prop Alex Fidow took them to a 28-7 lead at the break. No surprises for the first try in the second half going to Plumtree and wing Julian Savea made no mistake in the air when plucking out an Umaga-Jensen kick to score. Replacement hooker Bruce Kauika-Peterson demonstrated his nose for a try when in good position to capitalise and in the perfect finish, wing Wes Goosen, who started it all off earlier, set up a chance for replacement wing Brandyn Laursen to score the last. Northland stalwart Dan Hawkins added to his side's pain when sent off moments from the end for a head high hit on prop Xavier Numia.

Wellington 54 (Taine Plumtree 3, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Alex Fidow, Julian Savea, Bruce Kauika-Petersen, Brandyn Laursen tries; Ruben Love 5 con; Laursen 2 con) Northland 7 (Jordan Olsen try; Rivez Reihana con). HT: 28-7

Otago 26 Southland 19

Tradition counts for plenty after 140 years of contact and it provided the basis for another close contest between the two southern rivals. Otago struck first when fullback Sam Gilbert raced onto a grubber kick from centre Freedom Vana'akolo but then Southland hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate struck back with a superb try from a return pass to his lineout throw. It then got down to the most basic of forward battles with penalty goals traded between replacement kicker Vilimoni Koroi after Josh Ioane was injured, and the former Highlanders ace Marty Banks, playing for Southland. With the scores tied at 19-19, and three minutes left, replacement loose forward Christian Leo-Wille unleashed a mid-field bust and that was all it took to provide the winning chance for Vana'akolo to touch down the winning try.

Otago 26 (Sam Gilbert, Freedom Vaha'akolo tries; Josh Ioane pen; Vilimoni Koroi con, 3 pen; Gilbert con) Southland 19 (Greg Pleasants-Tate try; Marty Banks con, 4 pen). HT: 13-10

Bay of Plenty 14 Tasman 27

Bay of Plenty halfback Luke Campbell, having given his side impetus with a quick tap penalty, may never score an easier try than the opener in Tauranga. But despite chances Bay couldn't build on it and it was Tasman who had the final say in the first half after wing Mark Telea created a break on the left flank and with support from halfback Louie Chapman, it was second five-eighths Tim O'Malley who opened the champions' response. Into the second half centre Sean Wainui scored a good try for the Bay to claim a one-point lead. Tasman resorted to their forward power for hooker Quentin MacDonald to twice score and give Tasman a lead it never relinquished across the final 26 minutes.

Bay of Plenty 14 (Luke Campbell, Sean Wainui tries; Kaleb Trask 2 con) Tasman 27 (Tim O'Malley, Quentin MacDonald 2; Mitch Hunt 3 con, 2pen). HT: 7-13

North Harbour 15 Waikato 28

North Harbour looked to be comfortably placed when making a good start as they capitalised on a cross-kick from first five-eighths Bryn Gatland, that allowed the home team to make the most of some poor Waikato defence to take a ruck to the line before halfback Bryn Hall took advantage of unguarded blindside to open the scoring. But Waikato waited, and when fullback Matt Lansdowne took a high midfield kick, he landed to run at pace to space with wing Masese Dawai out-running the defence to score. Then, into the second half, a strong lineout drive saw hooker Sekope Lopeti-Moli score. But the try of the day was created when flanker Mitch Jacobson was out among the backs to interpass with wing Liam Coomes-Fabling before Jacobson crossed. All Blacks midfield back Quinn Tupaea caused all manner of problems with ball in hand and his break saw Dawai across for his second. A deft Gatland kick provided the chance for wing Moses Leo to round out the scoring, but it wasn't enough to deny Waikato a comfortable win.

North Harbour 15 (Bryn Hall, Moses Leo tries; Bryn Gatland con, pen) Waikato 28 (Mosese Dawai 2, Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Mitch Jacobson tries; Fletcher Smith 4 con). HT: 8-7

Auckland 35 Canterbury 24

Using the wind to advantage Auckland struck first with wing AJ Lam making the most of an overlap advantage to score three minutes into the game. With first five-eighths Harry Plummer kicking the penalty goals, and halfback Jonathan Ruru muscling the ball upfield, Auckland had Canterbury under intense pressure. When they moved the ball from the scrum, Salesi Rayasi got the ball to Lam and while there were defenders, Lam's line saw him in at the corner. Then Lam running at first receiver put his feet to use to open space, to complete a hat-trick by the 35th minute. Wing Manasa Mataele scored an opportunist's try off an Auckland mistake and Canterbury hopes rose when replacement loosie Corey Kellow peeled off a maul to score. With 10 minutes left a try to replacement hooker Shilo Klein got Canterbury to 24-28 but with four minutes left a strong run by Plummer produced a try out wide and he landed a sideline conversion to seal the win.

Auckland 35 (AJ Lam 3, Harry Plummer tries; Plummer 3 con,  3pen) Canterbury 24 (Manasa Mataele, Corey Kellow, Shilo Klein tries; Fergus Burke 3 con, pen). HT: 25-3

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