Sam McNicol celebrated his return from international duty with an inspirational performance for the Hawke's Bay under-18 rugby side on Saturday.
A week after helping the New Zealand Secondary Schools team beat their Australian counterparts in Sydney, fullback McNicol, produced a player-of-the-match display with two tries, both in the first half, as Hawke's Bay beat Wellington 24-11 in their Palmerston North-hosted Hurricanes competition final.
It was Napier Boys' High School student McNicol's final outing in Hawke's Bay colours as next year he will begin a two-year contract with the Wellington Lions.
It was the first time since 2007 Hawke's Bay won the Hurricanes title in this age group and Wellington had won it for the last five years.
"To be fair it was an outstanding display by the entire squad. While Sam [McNicol] got the player of the match award it could easily have gone to Geoff," Hawke's Bay manager Stu Gourdie said referring to No8 Geoff Cridge who previously played for the Hawke's Bay under-20s as a lock this season.
The Steve Lloyd-coached side recovered from an early 6-0 deficit in the windy conditions to establish a 21-6 lead at halftime. Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Ethan Bradey did well to kick four penalties and a conversion from six attempts at goal in the difficult conditions. Prop Sione Nui and openside flanker Michael Buckley joined Cridge as the pick of the Bay forwards. Halfback Daniel Hardwidge joined McNicol and Bradey as the best of the Bay backs.
Former Hawke's Bay age group prop Tim Cadwallader won player-of-the-match honours after his Manawatu team beat Wellington 17-15 in the Hurricanes under-20 final in Palmerston North on Saturday.
It was the second time Manawatu had won this competition and the last time they won was in 2007.
The Hawke's Bay Ross Shield team beat their Poverty Bay counterparts 31-0 at Elwood Park in Hastings on Saturday. As the score suggests the hosts were too strong.
Particularly prominent for Hawke's Bay were lock Josh Gimblett and hooker Tyrone Thompson in the pack and first five-eighth Kurtis Weeks.