Counties-Manukau led the Hawke's Bay Magpies 22-13 at halftime in tonight's Mitre 10 Premiership third round rugby match at Napier's McLean Park.

While the Steelers capitalised on all of their opportunites the Magpies lost possession at crucial times and were guilty of making low percentage decisions.

The Steelers opened the scoring in the third minute with a dropped goal to first five-eighth Piers Francis. Their control in the buildup was admirable.

In sharp contrast the Magpies were making silly mistakes and conceding soft turnovers in ideal conditions.

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Two-test All Black halfback and Steelers captain Augustine Pulu displayed his class early with a clever snipe and kick ahead which led to fullback Luteru Laulala's eighth minute try which Francis converted.

The Magpies took a risk when they turned down a penalty in front of the posts in the 11th minute and then lost the lineout with a brave throw to the back.

Three minutes later first five-eighth Ihaia West opened the Magpies account with a penalty from a similar position.

Magpies winger Robbie Fruean celebrated his first Mitre 10 Cup appearance of the season with the hosts first try in the 20th minute following some clever use of numbers on the short side. West added the conversion from the touchline.

Counties-Manukau replied three minutes later with a try to centre Sam Vaka after another clever kick from Pulu and the visitors led 15-10.

They extended this lead with a try to flanker Jordan Taufua in the 28th minute which Francis converted.

Four minutes later Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon was denied a try by solid defence. The 33rd minute saw television match official Bruce Dockary rule Magpies No 8 Fa'alemiga Selesele had lost the ball forward in a try-scoring situation.

The Magpies continued to maintain possession and dominate territory and were rewarded with a 36th minute penalty to West.

The Steelers haven't beaten the Magpies at McLean Park since they captured the Ranfurly Shield with a 27-24 victory in 2013.

Tonight's match is the 53rd first-class game between the two provinces since 1956. The Magpies have won 29 and the Steelers 22. There has been one draw.