RUGBY - Vow to come back stronger

SHANE HURNDELL
Bring on the Super 14 rugby selections ...
They should help ease some of the hurt in the Kelt Capital Magpies team's camp. Despite their courageous performance in Saturday night's 31-21 Air New Zealand Cup semifinal loss to Canterbury in Christchurch the disappointment was clearly visible in their AMI Stadium dressing room.
Their quest to improve on last year's semifinal exit had failed. Even the lip of two-try hero Karl Lowe was scraping the floor.
"I'm pissed off ... it wasn't our day," said Lowe.
"In a way we enjoyed the occasion but we didn't get the result we wanted. This loss will make us come back stronger next year," said Lowe who won't have his shorts as a souvenir of the game in which he scored two tries despite marking All Black captain and the man he described as the best No.7 in the world - Richie McCaw.
Lowe gave his shorts to a young Canterbury fan he didn't know. Reflecting on his two first-half tries within 12 minutes Lowe said: "I just got the ball and ran."
On his way to his first Lowe beat Canterbury lock Michael Paterson, halfback Andy Ellis and fullback Scott Hamilton. His second also followed an individual solo dab.
It was just as well he got there because three of his nearest teammates, second five-eighth Sam Giddens, hooker Hika Elliot and No.8 George Naoupu, were too busy to support him as they were sorting out a disagreement with Canterbury winger Paul Williams.
That was one of the many positives of the Magpies performance. It was obvious from the start they weren't going to be bullied like they were when beaten 31-7 at the same venue three weeks earlier.
Another was the vast improvement of the Magpies tight five and another was the manner in which Lowe, Naoupu and fellow loosie Michael Johnson restricted the freedom the Canterbury loosies had last month.
"Our forward pack did a great job," said Lowe.
He wasn't prepared to say whether or not he thinks he has done enough this season to earn a Super 14 selection later this month.
"We'll have to see how it goes," he added.
While the Magpies players have to wait until October 31 to find out if they have Super 14 contracts, coach Peter Russell will hear tomorrow if he has the assistant coaching job with the Highlanders.

He is one of five candidates.
Russell agreed his troops had made giant strides on previous performances against Canterbury but he was disappointed with the lost opportunities.
Lock Bryn Evans was unlucky to be held up over the line by Canterbury first five-eighth and player-of-the-match Colin Slade. Yes here's another classy No.10 off the Canterbury production chain.
Johnson was also unlucky not to secure a clever unload from Naoupu close to the line. Evans scored the Magpies' best try of the game in the 78th minute after a movement sparked by a clever flick pass from hooker Hika Elliot who again enhanced his chances of All Black selection.
While the loss wasn't an appropriate farewell for retiring Magpies captain and halfback Danny Lee, his tenacity reflected the might of the Magpies' fight. He put his body on the line and was concussed in the process while making a try-saving tackle on Canterbury hooker Corey Flynn in the 37th minute.
"It kept the score level at halftime but at the end of the day it wasn't enough," said Lee afterwards. "I don't recall what happened during the next 15 minutes after that. I wanted to return when I came right but I had cooled down too much by then and the doctors advised against it. But I'm proud of the team. We didn't have a lot of ball or a lot of territory but we defended well ... that's been the story of our season," said Lee.
"Considering we hardly fired a shot here three weeks ago we've come a long way. The Magpies have two superb coaches and great support staff ... the Magpies' future is in good hands," he added.
He wasn't the only Magpie on doctor Ian Taylor's "See Me" list after the clash. Winger Zac Guildford broke his collarbone and will be unable to do full contact training for six to eight weeks and fullback Israel Dagg has an ankle injury.
Both should pick up Super 14 contracts along with at least four of their team mates. Only then will the hurt disappear for a team fans have to be extremely proud of.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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