Counties Manukau scored all their four tries in the last 30 minutes to overrun Manawatu 31-28 in a thrilling national provincial rugby match on Thursday.

A committed Manawatu side led the Championship division leaders 16-3 at halftime in Palmerston North and it was 23-10 with 20 minutes remaining before the visitors struck.

Brilliant solo tries by winger Sherwin Stowers and first five-eighth Baden Kerr in the 61st and 65th minutes put Counties Manukau ahead for the first time.

A second try to second five-eighth Bundee Aki appeared to seal the result but Manawatu reserve back Lewis Marshall crossed for his team's third try to set up an exciting finish.

However, the hosts had to settle for a bonus point as Counties Manukau pulled 11 points clear of their nearest rivals in the Championship standings, having won five of six games.

They were tested to the hilt by the fifth-placed Manawatu, who controlled most of the first half and deserved their lead courtesy of an early try to Willie Paia'aua and the accurate boot of fellow winger Craig Clare.

Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder - one of several exciting Manawatu backs on display, along with Marshall and second five-eighth Jason Emery - crossed midway through the second spell.

However, Counties Manukau appeared the fitter team and stormed home, with Kerr compiling 16 points to remain the leading scorer across the NPC this season.

NZ Newswire

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