Magpies 37 Counties 30
McLean Park, Napier
Take a bow Hawke's Bay Magpies!
This ITM Cup crossover victory at Napier's McLean Park last night was the result of a gutsy comeback after trailing 20-6 in the first quarter. This win will give courageous captain Mike Coman and his troops a confidence boost as a possible Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki approaches. Should Taranaki beat Tasman tonight in New Plymouth, Friday night's Magpies game in Naki country will be a challenge.
Magpies first five-eighth Dan Waenga was at the top of the hosts' heroes list last night with a 27-point haul which bettered All Black fullback Israel Dagg's 2008 record of 22 set against the Steelers in 2008.
"I didn't know anything about the record. It was just good to bring the victory home ... a huge boost for the boys," Waenga said afterwards.
"Goal-kicking is something I work pretty hard on and to knock over eight from nine in a tight game like this was rewarding," Waenga added.
Coman was an inspirational leader of an outfit which had no passengers. Special mention must be made of prop Adrian Barone who impressed with his scrummaging and mobility on debut.
Rookie lock Johan Schoonbee was another to shine on debut.
Counties-Manukau opened the scoring in the fourth minute when first five-eighth Baden Kerr kicked a penalty from 26 metres out after Taranaki referee Richard Kelly ruled Magpies winger Tino Nemani to be offside.
Kerr kicked his second penalty from a similar position to his first. Waenga opened the hosts' account in the ninth minute with a penalty from 35 metres out.
Chiefs utility back Tim Nanai-Williams scored the first try of the match for the Steelers in the 11th minute after hitting the line at pace on to a well timed pass from Kerr who slotted the conversion. Three minutes later Waenga landed a penalty from a similar spot to his first.
Halfback August Pulu scored the Steelers' second try in the 15th minute when the visitors applied quick hands under an advantage call from Kelly. Kerr slotted the conversion to put his side ahead 20-6.
Waenga landed his third penalty from 32 metres out to close the gap in the 20th minute. Five minutes later Waenga succeeded with his fourth penalty to have the hosts trailing 20-12.
Kerr maintained his 100 per cent success rate with a 28th minute penalty from 39 metres out. Waenga matched Kerr's five from five effort with a 33rd minute penalty after Steelers prop Simon Lemalu was sinbinned for yet another Steelers infringement at the breakdown.
Magpies hooker Hika Elliot scored a try after continuous pressure from the hosts pack as the halftime whistle sounded. Waenga's conversion from wide out had the Magpies trailing 23-22 at interval.
The Magpies did well to recover from their 20-6 deficit. Their ability to retain pressure for long periods in the second quarter was the key.
This denied the dangerous Steelers backs possession. Waenga's goal-kicking was superb and he was outstanding in general play. Elliot was again inspirational and the Magpies' scrum with tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna prominent operated well.
Former New Zealand sevens star Sherwin Stowers scored the Steelers' third try with a spectacular solo effort. Kerr landed the conversion.
Magpies replacement winger Gillies Kaka was unlucky to be put into touch in the 46th minute but the Steelers were offside and Waenga closed the gap to 30-25 with his seventh consecutive success at goal.
Outstanding Magpies pressure and quick ball saw centre Tua Saseve score the hosts' second try in the 59th minute. Waenga's conversion attempt from wide out just missed.
Waenga broke the deadlock in the 71st minute with a try following another linebreak from second five-eighth Andrew Horrell. Waenga succeeded with the conversion.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 37 (Tua Saseve, Hika Elliot, Dan Waenga tries; Waenga 6 pens, 2 cons) Counties-Manukau 30 (Tim Nanai Williams, August Pulu, Sherwin Stowers tries; Baden Kerr 3 pens, 3 cons). HT: Steelers 23-22.
New Zealand Under-20 hooker Rhys Marshall received Hawke's Bay's PGG Wrightson Country Club Player of the Year award at last night's pre-match function.
Marshall, who played for the Central premiers this season after playing for the Onga Tiko Colts last year, received the award from All Black selector and former ABs first five-eighth Grant Fox who played against Marshall's father and former Taranaki loosie Ian Marshall in the late 1980s.
Marshall will be in action for the Hawke's Bay Under-20s against the New Zealand Marist Colts at Park Island, Napier, today.
All Black lock Brodie Retallick was the inaugural winner of this award in 2010.