12 Aug 2011

Auckland edge Counties - just

8:53 am on 12 August 2011

The Counties Manukau rugby coach is fuming after the referee denied his side what would have been an historic victory over neighbours Auckland.

With time almost up Counties were awarded a penalty but passed up a shot at goal for the draw to take a lineout, then prop Simon Lemalu got the ball over the line but was ruled by referee Kane McBride to have picked it up from the ruck while he was off his feet.

Auckland hung on to win the crossover game 25-22 at Eden Park and keep their Premiership title hopes alive, while the loss all but ends Counties' push for promotion.

The Steelers coach is furious, with Milton Haig accusing referees of favouring Premiership sides in the inter-divisional games.

Haig says replays clearly showed Lemalu was on his feet and at the back of the ruck when he picked up the ball and launched himself over the tryline.

Counties led 16-15 at half-time with both sides scoring a try apiece.

The win moves Auckland up to second on the Premiership ladder for now, two points behind Bay of Plenty while Counties are fifth in the Championship, eight points behind leaders Manawatu with four games to play.

Taranaki host Tasman in New Plymouth tonight.