Tasman 26 Magpies 25
THE SCENE was set for an appropriate farewell for Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby flanker Karl Lowe in his 100th first class outing for the side last night.
Several of his Clive clubmates had spent all day travelling south to Nelson's Trafalgar Park for the ITM Cup Championship final. Their banners congraulating "Lowey" on his achievement were the biggest in the crowd.
Lowey, in his final outing for the side before starting a two-year contract in Japan, was inspirational but the Magpies were pipped at the final whistle. A case of Heartbreak Hotel.
"Yes we dug deep until the 80th minute. We've had a great year but Tasman deserve it ... they've had a fantastic year," Lowe said afterwards.
Magpies captain Mike Coman, in his final outing before heading to Scotland's Edinburgh club, was quick to congratulate his region of birth on their success.
"I'll probably get hung in Hawke's Bay for saying this but if we couldn't win it I'm glad it was you guys."
"Massive congratulations to the Makos ... you have been outstanding all year. You had a great crowd and this is good for Tasman rugby," Coman said.
"It's disappointing for our boys but you gave everything you had. I'm really proud of every one of you. We've come a long way this season."
After congratulating Magpies coaches Craig Philpott and Danny Lee on the culture they created Coman apologised to the Magpies supporters for the loss and failure to secure promotion to the Premiership.
Makos captain Shane Christie congratulated the Magpies on the show they put on.
He predicted the Magpies will gain promotion next year.
The Magpies hushed the 7600 Makos fans early when fullback Zac Guildford scored in the second minute following a superb turnover forced by centre Richard Buckman. First five-eighth Ihaia West succeeded with the conversion.
The Makos equalised in the 10th minute when winger Bryce Heem scored after the hosts attacked under advantage. First five-eighth Marty Banks slotted the conversion.
West put the Magpies back in front with a 13th minute penalty when referee Glen Jackson pinged the Makos for leaving their feet at the breakdown. Banks kicked an equalising penalty in the 22nd minute when the Magpies were penalised for not rolling away.
Banks put the hosts in front for the first time with a 24th minute penalty which had the Makos ahead 13-10.
Two Makos tries during the final three minutes proved to be the turning point in the match. Tasman No.8 Liam Squire, the same bloke who did the damage in the Makos round robin win against the Magpies, scored in the 37th minute after a quick lineout throw.
Two minutes later Banks scored a length of the field intercept after latching on to a quick pass from West at a penalty and Tasman led 23-10 at halftime. This lead belied the halftime statistics which had the Magpies with 62 per cent of the territory and 54 per cent of possession.
Despite this lead former Magpies coach and Makos head coach Kieran Keane wasn't happy. He urged his troops to man up on defence more in the second spell and improve their line speed.
He agreed the Magpies were dominating the breakdown.
The Magpies chances of sparking an early comeback in the second half were extinguished when West missed consecutive penalty attempts in the 44th and 46th minutes. They were dealt another cruel blow when penalised in the 50th minute five metres from their tryline after numerous phases of control and pressure. Keane's halftime messages surrounding defence were taken on board.
All of the Magpies third quarter possession and territory was finally rewarded in the 58th minute when flanker Brendon O'Connor scored. West succeeded with the conversion and the Magpies trailed 23-17.
However another Banks penalty had the Makos ahead 26-17 after 69 minutes. West closed the gap with a 71st minute penalty.
The Magpies were never going to say die and displayed their tremendous character when replacement halfback Chris Eaton scored a 78th minute try after some spectacular bursts from O'Connor and substitute lock Trent Boswell-Wakefield.
West, so often the hero during the Magpies match to the final, missed the conversion. Both West and Banks finished the game with four successes from seven attempts at goal.