For most teams, having two players sent from the field at the same time would be the end of their hopes of victory. For Counties Manukau, though, it was the shot in the arm they needed to score a half century of points against Tasman in the final round of the Mitre 10 Cup.
Ahead 31-30 in the 64th minute, Albert Nikoro was shown a red card for a swinging arm to the head of Tima Fainga’anuku. While play continued, replacement first five Baden Kerr then dropped his shoulder on Rupena Parkinson straight afterwards and was yellow carded.
Tasman had already seen Sam Moli go to the bin for a professional foul that led to a penalty try, and the game itself often turned spiteful as the home side were desperate to salvage some pride from a disappointing season.
After the reduction in numbers, Counties scored through Tim Nanai-Williams and Sam Henwood to put the game out of reach. Just to add a little salt to the wound, Kerr then returned from the bin to score the last try of the game.
While it was a fine way for Counties to finish up the year, Tasman now have to face the daunting task of traveling to New Plymouth to take on red-hot Taranaki in a semi-final next week.
In other Mitre 10 Cup games over the weekend, Canterbury held off Auckland 32-27, Bay of Plenty consigned Waikato to relegation with a 36-32 defeat and Otago ensured Southland had a winless 2017 with a 43-19 victory.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now