Rugby: Taniwha fall asleep and gift victory to Magpies

By Anendra Singh

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Telusa Veainu offloads in the tackle of Northland's Viliami Tahitu'a at McLean Park. Photo / APN
Telusa Veainu offloads in the tackle of Northland's Viliami Tahitu'a at McLean Park. Photo / APN

Did the Hawke's Bay Magpies win or did the Northland Taniwha choke in Napier last night?

Whatever the verdict from from either camp or fans what is indisputable is that the hosts came away with four crucial points to find a perch on the top-of-the-table of the second-tier Premiership competition of ITM Cup rugby.

The Rene Ranger-captained did everything expected in the first half to suggest they were going to hit the highway back to the Far North but, alas, they had to settle for a bonus point and the third rung of the NPC ladder as the Mike Coman-led Magpies performed a breath-taking Houdini act to snatch a 31-26 victory from the jaws of defeat.

Whatever coach Craig Philpott and his assistant, Danny Lee, said in the changing sheds at halftime is unlikely to be disclosed but the hosts found a spring in their step in the second spell to reduce the deficit from 23-6 to 23-19 within 15 minutes of resuming play.

"We got a towelling at halftime," Coman said after the final whistle.

"We were fighting for territory but blew it with mistakes."

The Taniwha were their own worst enemies in the second half.

They had a bad case of the whoopsy daisies, knocking on the ball more often than local politicians have knocked on Hawke's Bay doors during their campaign for next month's elections.

A rash of unforced errors saw the Magpies slowly but surely work their way back into the game before levelling terms, 26-26, with a shade over seven minutes to go on the clock.

If Ranger was the juggernaut for Northland in the first half, former All Black Zac Guildford provided the impetus for the Magpies when he claimed crucial catches from high balls.

Magpies linchpin Ihaia West, returning from a one-game injury layoff, also chimed in with crucial touch finders and penalty kicks.

If the All Blacks v Springboks didn't have enough controversy the night before, yesterday's NPC game gave rugby fans more to chew on.

The Magpies come-from-behind win had its talking point when Northland first five-eighth Daniel Hawkins was redundant for the final 10 minutes after the ref pinged him for playing the ball on the ground when it appeared Magpies substitute hooker Ash Dixon had already lunged over for a try.

Aggressive Magpies back Richard Buckman and flanker Brendon O'Connor were left nursing sore bodies, albeit not as painful perhaps as All Black Dan Carter shoulder injury on Saturday night, after some solid smash-'em-bro-type hits from Northland.

Hawkes Bay 31 (Zac Guildford, Telusa Veainu, Richard Buckman tries; Ihaia West 4 pen, 2 con) Northland 26 (Jake Paringatai, Roy Griffin tries; Daniel Hawkins 3 pen, drop goal, 2 con) Halftime: 6-23.APN News & Media

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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