Captain Rhys Marshall cherished his Hawke's Bay under-20s rugby side's history-making win in New Plymouth on Saturday slightly more than his teammates.
Hawke's Bay's 51-19 win against Taranaki in the curtain raiser to the Ranfurly Shield fixture at Yarrow Stadium was the first time a side had completed an unbeaten run in round robin play in the Hurricanes competition. For New Zealand under-20s hooker and 2010 New Plymouth Boys' High School First 15 captain, Marshall, it was the first time he had played for a Hawke's Bay team against Taranaki on Naki soil.
"There was plenty of niggle out there as I expected against a team containing so many of my old teammates. It was a good feeling to beat them ... the boys dug deep and managed to put some phases together to secure the win," Marshall, a Smedley Station farming cadet, said.
What made it even sweeter was the fact his parents including former Taranaki loose forward Ian Marshall were cheering for the Bay. "If we have another positive week next week we will have a good chance come final time," Marshall added referring to his team's final against Wellington at Palmerston North this Saturday.
Marshall was again inspirational in the Bay pack where No8 Levi Guildford again shone with his powerful carries and huge defensive workrate. Hawke's Bay's back three of fullback Manihera Eden and winger Zane Crook and Shannan Chase were impressive at counter attack time.
Hawke's Bay halfback Sheridan Rangihuna succeeded with seven of his attempts at goal for an 18 point haul, four penalties and three conversions.
Talented fullback Tamati Samuels was a late withdrawal from the side as his hamstring injury was still niggling him but Bay manager Blair Heasley is confident Samuels will be fit for the final.
"It was perfect summer-type conditions over here. We should have put 80 points on the Naki but our performance was patchy ... the fact we know we can improve is a good sign going into the final," Heasley added.
Fullback Nikau McGregor ran in five tries as the Hawke's Bay under-13s beat their Manawatu counterparts 43-21 at Napier's Park Island on Saturday.
After a dominant first five minutes Hawke's Bay made too many handling errors and dropped off too many tackles which allowed Manawatu to establish a 14-5 lead at half time. In the second half, Hawke's Bay committed more players at breakdown time, retained the ball better and classy backs like McGregor and centre Quevane Gurnick were able to strut their stuff.
Busy No8 Cameron Huata, openside flanker Nathan Epplett and lock Jon Joseph-Scales all had high work rates in the host pack.