ITM Cup: Woeful Magpies pay price

If Hawke's Bay Magpies coaches Craig Philpott and Danny Lee had smashed the glass between them and those of us in the media box at FMG Stadium on Saturday, we would have understood.

Their team produced another woeful performance in this 20-7 ITM Cup crossover loss in Palmerston North.

It was just as bad as their last crossover loss to Southland in Invercargill and considering the goals Philpott and Lee had set at the start of the season these sort of displays are inexcusable.

The threat of relegation has just got bigger for the Premiership Magpies who take on the in-form Canterbury outfit at Napier's McLean Park on Wednesday night and then challenge the vastly improved Waikato side for the Ranfurly Shield in Hamilton on Saturday night.

"Not getting the win here today was crucial. We had a lack of penetration and if you don't get over the gain line you don't win," Philpott said.

Philpott and Lee are likely to be calling on players from their wider training group for this week's training sessions at least as their injury list grew big time during the loss.

Captain and in-form loosie Mike Coman was forced from the field with a neck injury before the fifth minute ticked over.

Winger Zac Guildford, who was playing his first match since August 31, lasted 90 seconds before his hamstring injury returned. Prop Adrian Barone didn't return for the second half against one of his former unions because of a shoulder injury and Hurricanes halfback Chris Eaton lasted less than two minutes as a substitute before collecting a lower calf tear.

The failure to capitalise on at least three tryscoring opportunities proved costly for the Magpies. There was a strong chance Guildford would have scored when he pulled up with his hamstring injury chasing a clever kick ahead.

The Magpies were trailing 13-7 when centre Tino Nemani spilled the ball forward in the 54th minute with the tryline wide open and winger Gillies Kaka unmarked outside him.

Just before halftime Magpies lock Ross Kennedy lost the ball forward at the back of a ruck when the visitors were hot on attack and probably two phases away from a try.

Fullback Andrew Horrell scored the visitors' only try in the 18th minute after good pressure from the Magpies pack.

He added the conversion and these turned out to be the Magpies only points.

While the 70km/h wind, which the Magpies had behind them in the first half, made goalkicking conditions difficult Turbos first five-eighth Nathan George was able to land four of his five attempts in familiar surroundings and Horrell succeeded with one from three.

Horrell missed two early penalty attempts and had these gone over the Magpies could have been 13-0 ahead and on the way to victory. In sharp contrast the Turbos nailed the few scoring opportunities they had.

Manawatu second five-eighth Shaun Curry scored the hosts first try in the 41st minute after a superb break from fullback Lewis Marshall.

George converted it and then kicked a penalty three minutes later to have the Turbos ahead 13-7.

Any faint hope the Turbos had of a bonus point or getting the KR Tremain Memorial Trophy back off the Turbos was dashed when big Turbos substitute prop David Te Moana crashed over for a 67th-minute try which George converted.

A lack of accuracy at breakdown time again let the Magpies down. There were too many soft turnovers or penalties conceded.

Often No 8 Karl Lowe and hooker Hika Elliot would make some promising bursts but lacked cohesive support.

One bloke who didn't mind the Magpies producing another shocker was former Magpies captain and current Turbos lock Reece Robinson, who is likely to retire at the end of the season.

"We have had a few poor performances at home so it was good to get this win. We've got a chance of a semifinal now if we can beat Southland down in Invercargill next week," Robinson said.

Robinson, 34, is the only member of the old Central Vikings team still playing first-class rugby.

His main role this season has been to mentor Turbos locks Fraser Stone and Michael Fitzgerald who were both prominent in the hosts victory. "The union may want me back for another season but if they don't I won't mind calling it quits," he added.

George, fullback Lewis Marshall and winger Nehe Milner-Skudder were other Turbos to shine.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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