ITM Cup: Magpies lift spirits

By Shane Hurndell

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Ihaia West celebrates his match-winning try with Telusa Veainu in last night's upset victory over the Wellington Lions at McLean Park, Napier.
Ihaia West celebrates his match-winning try with Telusa Veainu in last night's upset victory over the Wellington Lions at McLean Park, Napier.

Whether the Hawke's Bay Magpies won or lost the late Graham Weber was always astute and constructive with his post-match comments.

Weber, the former Magpies assistant coach and father of Magpies manager Neil Weber, who died last weekend, would have been all smiles and 90 per cent praise had he seen last night's win against the Wellington Lions which was dedicated to his memory.

It was appropriate Magpies first five-eighth Ihaia West should score the matchwinning try which kept the Magpies ITM Cup Championship semifinal hopes alive as of all the Magpies West had the most to do with the Weber family having played a lot of age group rugby with Graham's grandson and Neil's son Brad.

While West was again classy in a memorable team effort the bulk of the post-match praise belonged to the Magpies loose forward trio of openside flanker Brendon O'Connor, captain and blindside flanker Mike Coman and No.8 Karl Lowe who outplayed the more fancied Wellington loosies.

Wellington enjoyed the early territorial advantage but it was the Magpies who opened the scoring. First five-eighth Ihaia West kicked a ninth minute penalty from 24 metres out.

Sustained pressure from the Magpies saw fulback Zac Guildford score three minutes later. This was Guildford's first try against the Lions in seven seasons of first class rugby. West added the conversion and the Magpies led 10-0.

In the 18th minute the Magpies scored a try the late Graham Weber would have been proud of. Winger Telusa Veainu scored after some superb passing from West and midfielders Andrew Horrell and Richard Buckman. West again converted.

The Lions opened their account in the 24th minute when captain and No.8 Victor Vito scored after a powerful five metre scrum from the visitors. Pivot Lima Sopoaga slotted the conversion.

West extended the Magpies lead with a 36th minute penalty. Three minutes later the Lions replied with a try from lock Mark Reddish after numerous phases close to the line. Sopoaga landed the conversion.

Another West penalty during injury time had the Magpies ahead 23-14 at halftime.

Substitute back Afa Fa'atau scored the first try of the second half and after a strong break from Lions prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen in the 42nd minute. Sopoaga's conversion had the visitors trailing 23-21.

The Lions took the lead for the first time with a Sopoaga penalty in the 59th minute. Four minutes later the Magpies were back in front courtesy of a try to substitute midfielder Adam Bradey. West missed the conversion.

West sealed the Magpies first victory against the Lions since 2011 with a cracker of a 40 metre solo try which he converted. It will be a surprise if West doesn't receive a Super Rugby offer within the next 24 hours.

Last night's match was the 300th at the venue for scoreboard operator Paul "Magoo" McGettigan. Needless to say on such a significant occasion he posted the right score ... one the late Graham Weber would have given the thumbs up to.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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