Another brutal chapter in the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's nightmare of a 2017 season was written during today's 33-14 loss to Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe.
The sixth round Mitre 10 Cup crossover defeat leaves the Magpies with just one win this season. As has been the case previously this year the Magpies started well and produced a solid first half but numerous handling errors and fragile defence let the visitors down in the second spell.
After an error-ridden first 18 minutes from both teams the Steelers opened the scoring in the 20th minute courtesy of a try from fullback Tim Nanai-Williams following an intercept from winger Nigel Ah Wong and good work from halfback Augustine Pulu. First five-eighth Baden Kerr added the conversion.
Four minutes later the Magpies replied with a try to captain and hooker Ash Dixon after his troops retained possession better than they had previously. Fullback Ihaia West slotted the conversion and the score remained 7-all until the halftime whistle.
The Magpies made a woeful start to the second half when first five-eighth Tiaan Falcon dropped the ball 10 metres out from the Magpies goalline and the Steelers scored three phases later through flanker Fotu Lokotui. Kerr again added the extras.
Player-of-the-match Nanai-Williams sent flanker Johnathan Kawau over for a try in the 51st minute. Another poor lineout from the Magpies saw Pulu and Nanai-Williams again display their class for the latter to cross for his second try in the 60th minute which Kerr converted.
The Magpies did well to hold the Steelers out until the 75th minute when 151.6kg replacement prop Kalolo Tuiloma crashed over for a try which substitute pivot Lutere Laulala converted. To their credit the Magpies never threw the towel in and susbtitute back Pasqualle Dunn scored a 78th minute try which West converted.
While Nanai-Williams deserved the player-of-the-match award Pulu and busy No 8 Samuel Henwood were close behind. Centre Jonah Lowe was the Magpies best player with several line breaks and some tidy defensive work in partnership with second five-eighth Richard Buckman particularly in the first half.
Flanker Tony Lamborn, Dixon and lock Geoff Cridge all made commendable returns from injury spells.
Counties-Manukau 33 (Tim Nanai-Williams 2, Kalolo Tuiloma, Johnathan Kawau, Fotu Lokotui tries; Baden Kerr 3, Luteru Laulala cons), Hawke's Bay 14 (Ash Dixon, Pasqualle Dunn tries; Ihaia West 2 cons). HT: 7-all.