The Manawatu Turbos have pulled off a stunning upset to celebrate Nick Crosswell’s 100th game for the province by beating Canterbury 32-29 in Christchurch on Friday night.
Knocking off the perennial title contenders was the third victory in a row for the Turbos as the side look to have shaken off their rocky start to the season to be genuine playoff contenders.
Thursday’s win was the Turbos’ first over Canterbury since 2016 and their first in Christchurch since 2008.
Crosswell became the 11th player to reach the 100-game milestone in the union’s 134-year history when he led the team out on the field.
While Crosswell was typically busy around the field, it was fellow loose forward Brayden Iose, along with captain Jamie Booth who stole the show.
The early pressure looked to favour Canterbury, but Manawatu proved up to the task on defence as they survived the early wave of attack.
When Manawatu got their hands on the balls, they were patient and they capitalised on their chances as Ngani Laumape threw a perfect cut-out pass to set up Johnny Galloway in the corner.
Otere Black extended the lead with a penalty in front of the sticks and by the 26th minute the Turbos were 13-points ahead after Andre Taylor hammered home a 51m penalty off the back of a dominant scrum from Samu Tawake.
Taylor was back in the action shortly after as Canterbury No 8 Whetu Douglas broke away. His offload was broken up by Liam Mitchell, tipping the ball into the hands of Taylor who proved there is still plenty of pace in his 31-year-old legs as he sliced through the defence for an 80m try.
Dallas McLeod showed off some fancy footwork to get Canterbury on the board after 32 minutes.
But just three minutes later, fortune favoured the Turbos as an Otere Black kick took a wicked bounce for Josh McKay, sitting up for a charging Laumape to bag a try and give Manawatu a 25-5 lead at the break.
The second half was a more even affair with Canterbury throwing everything at trying to win the game.
First Luke Romano crossed in the corner, then Seb Siataga crossed from a wayward Turbos lineout to cut the lead to 25-17.
At a crucial moment with 20 minutes to play, Booth broke through the line and set Brayden Iose away for a try.
Canterbury were persistent on attack with McKay scoring with 10 minutes to play.
With just one minute on the clock, Brett Cameron bagged a try for Canterbury to set up a frantic final minute.
But after some solid defence, Canterbury eventually knocked the ball on with the Turbos claiming the famous bonus-point win.
Manawatu 32 (John Galloway, Andre Taylor, Ngani Laumape, Brayden Iose tries; Otere Black 3 con, pen, Andre Taylor pen) Canterbury 29 (Dallas McLeod, Luke Romano, Seb Siataga, Josh McKay, Brett Cameron tries; Brett Cameron 2 con). HT: 25-5