Magpies 33 Auckland 32
McLean Park, Napier
Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby winger Zac Guildford admits he is still hurting from the Crusaders' 20-19 Super Rugby semifinal loss to the Chiefs a fortnight ago.
But Guildford agreed he went a long way to extinguishing some of that hurt with a hat-trick during his 30 minutes of action off the bench as the Magpies upset Auckland 33-32 in their final ITM Cup rehearsal at Napier's McLean Park on Saturday.
"That hat-trick, as well as watching my club win the Maddison Trophy for the first time in 21 years," Guildford said referring to Napier Technical's 17-8 Maddison Trophy final win against Napier Old Boys Marist in the main game at Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's headquarters on Saturday.
The 24-year-old former All Black who is in his seventh season with the Magpies and has scored 175 points in 56 first-class outings scored his first try in the 54th minute after securing an accurate crossfield kick from first five-eighth Ihaia West and diving over.
Six minutes later he had his second after the Magpies backs moved the ball at pace and centre Richard Buckman delivered a quick miss pass to his clubmate.
Guildford had his hat-trick with nine minutes remaining.
"The boys just needed some confidence and energy. It was good to go on and get a few of the young fellas involved in the game a bit more. We just needed more possession and territory," Guildford said.
"The spirit in this year's team is pretty good and there's a lot of excitement among the younger boys which needs to be unleashed."
Fellow Crusaders winger and prolific tryscorer for Canterbury in the ITM Cup before transferring to the Bay, Telusa Veainu took the field at the same time as Guildford and impressed in all aspects of play, particularly his defence."Telusa is a flashy type of player while I'm the grafter,"Guildford quipped.
Close behind Guildford on the list of Magpies heroes was replacement first five-eighth Regis Lespinas, who succeeded with both of his conversion attempts including the match-winner from wide out after No8 Mark Atkins had scored a 79th minute try.
This match-winner was ample compensation for his two misses in Taupo on August 1.
While the character and never-say-die attitude adopted by the Magpies during the final quarter will certainly give the side confidence in the buildup to their ITM Cup Championship opener against Manawatu at Napier's McLean Park on Saturday, the weekend's win was far from a consistent effort. The Magpies trailed 24-9 at halftime after conceding some soft tries and 29-9 two minutes into the second half.
"That was a major concern for us. A couple of key individuals let us down defensively in our 22," Magpies head coach Craig Philpott said afterwards.
He had every right to be proud of the contribution of some of his second-half replacements who he said put their hand up for selection as starters. While he didn't name individuals it will be a surprise if Blues openside flanker Brendon O'Connor hasn't earned a start against Manawatu. His defensive work was spot on and he gained valuable metres on the carry. Former London Irish prop Max Lahiff was another who may have done enough to earn a start against Manawatu.
Centre Malakai Fekitoa and New Zealand under-20s fullback Lolagi Visinia both displayed class as they scored two tries each for Auckland. Te Aute College product and axed All Black Piri Weepu had stints in both the halfback and first five-eighth positions for Auckland.
He would have been disappointed with the manner in which his side self-destructed as the hosts staged their memorable comeback. There was a 10-minute delay to the game when Auckland lock Liaki Moli was stretchered off in the first half.
It was a precautionary measure as he complained of some tingling feelings. However it was later discovered he was concussed and Moli was able to travel back to the Auckland team's Taupo base on Saturday where they were to continue their pre-season camp yesterday before returning to Auckland today.