Magpies 42 Steamers 41, McLean Park, Napier
How appropriate it was Ihaia West who produced the Houdini Act for the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby side last night.
West's injury time runaway try, which he converted, gave the Magpies this 42-41 ITM Cup Pre miership sixth round victory. West was unlucky to be denied a try in the previous home game victory against Counties-Manukau.
There was talk at the time that try could turn out to be the difference between the Magpies missing out on retaining Premiership status at the end of the season. Last night's try may prove to be the turning point in the Magpies season and their key to Premiership survival.
While West stole the limelight in those final seconds, his Havelock North clubmate Gillies Kaka was player-of-the-match with his hat-trick and workrate.
However, all of the Magpies deserve praise for their never-say-die approach under desperate circumstances.
The Magpies were urgent from the first whistle and first five-eighth Dan Waenga opened the scoring with a fifth minute 50-metre penalty. Two minutes later, Waenga had his second attempt from 49 metres on the angle. It bounced off the upright. The Magpies had the opportunity to attack from a Steamers clearance but hooker Hika Elliot lost the ball forward and the visitors counter attacked.
After several phases of continuous pressure from the Steamers, All Black flanker Sam Cane dived over for a try from close range. First five-eighth Nick McCashin added the conversion and Bay of Plenty led 7-3.
Waenga closed the gap with a 16th-minute penalty from 39 metres out. McCashin gave the visitors a 10-6 lead with a 20th minute penalty.
A sensational try from Magpies winger Kaka in the 25th minute put the hosts back in front. Kaka kicked ahead and regathered twice, while using his pace to beat three defenders, before scoring in the corner. Waenga missed the conversion attempt.
More feeble defensive work from the Magpies saw McCashin score a try in the 30th minute, which he converted to give the visitors a 17-11 lead. The Steamers again exposed the Magpies' poor defence in the 36th minute when halfback Josh Hall scored after good Steamers interpassing.
McCashin converted and the Steamers led 24-11.
The Magpies were back in the hunt when Wellington referee Mike Fraser awarded a penalty try just before halftime which Waenga converted. Fraser also sinbinned Steamers captain and blindside flanker Tanerau Latimer after the Steamers illegally collapsed an attacking maul from the hosts.
Despite being a player down, the Steamers scored first in the second half with a 41st-minute try to winger Lelia Masaga, who pushed off three Magpies defenders with ease on the way to the visitors' bonus-point try. McCashin slotted the conversion.
Three minutes later, Kaka scored his second try, awarded after Fraser sought assistance from the television match official.
In-form Steamers second five-eighth Phil Burleigh burst over untouched for a try in the 49th minute, which McCashin converted to give the visitors a 38-23 lead.
Magpies blindside flanker Tivaini Fomai celebrated his first starting XV appearance of the season with a 55th-minute bonus-point try which replacement first five-eighth West converted to have the Magpies trailing 38-30.
Kaka completed his hat-trick in the 60th minute after an outstanding break from fullback Andrew Horrell to have the hosts trailing 38-35.
Bay of Plenty's substitute first five-eighth Chris Noakes then kicked a 74th-minute penalty to extend the visitors' lead before the late winner.
In the curtain-raiser, Napier Boys' High School beat Hastings Boys' High School 26-15 in the Unison Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools Cup final.