Rugby: Hawke's Bay force draw against defending champions

Ryan Crotty of Canterbury is tackled by Kahn Fotuali'i of Hawkes Bay. Photo / Getty Images
Ryan Crotty of Canterbury is tackled by Kahn Fotuali'i of Hawkes Bay. Photo / Getty Images

Hawke's Bay put a small dent in Canterbury's aspirations of defending their national provincial championship rugby title by forcing a 23-23 draw in Christchurch tonight.

A midfield penalty two minutes after the final hooter by replacement first five-eighth Andrew Horrell earned Hawke's Bay a share of the spoils.

Until then it had seemed as if Canterbury, the 2008 and 2009 champions, would emerge with a narrow victory after Colin Slade put them in front 2min from fulltime with his third penalty of the match.

But Hawke's Bay forced their way into Canterbury territory and won their umpteenth penalty at the breakdown, which Horrell converted into crucial points.

Canterbury will console themselves with the knowledge that they had lost their opening match in each of the past two seasons before going on to win the title.

Their performance tonight lacked the spit and polish which regular match play will bring and their forwards, in particular, knew they had been in a contest against a vigorous Hawke's Bay pack headed by prop Clint Newland, hooker Hika Elliot and flanker Karl Lowe.

Hawke's Bay suffered two setbacks in the first half, losing first-five-eighth Daniel Kirkpatrick midway through the spell after he took a heavy knock to the head when attempting to tackle loose forwward Matt Todd, then seeing big prop Newland sinbinned for a late charge.

Kirkpatrick had goaled three 40m-45m penalties in the opening quarter and that role then fell to his replacement Horrell, who succeeded with his first attempt to help Hawke's Bay earn a 17-13 halftime advantage.

They ended the spell with Newland watching on from the sideline after referee Matt Stanish carded him for 10 minutes for a late charge on Canterbury second five-eighth Stephen Brett.

It was an unnecessary transgression from the aggressive Newland, who moments earlier had helped set up a try for hooker Elliot.

Hawke's Bay had the better of the breakdown area, a phase which attracted a succession of penalties by ways, and they forced 10 turnovers before the break alone.

However, their first phase backline defence was not as well oiled and Canterbury took toll, with fullback Sean Maitland scoring their first try in just the sixth minute after joining the line and sliced through a big gap.

Canterbury took just 20 seconds after the halftime break to hit the lead, with wing Tu Umaga-Marshall scoring a try from a chargedown of an attempted clearance by Hawke's Bay captain Jason Shoemark.

But both sides largely cancelled one another out for the next 40 minutes, although the visitors levelled the scores in the 54th minute through Horrell's second penalty before the late trading of penalties.

Canterbury 23 (Sean Maitland, Tu Umaga-Marshall tries; Colin Slade 3 pen, 2 con) Hawke's Bay 23 (Hika Elliot try; Daniel Kirkpatrick 3 pen, Andrew Horrell 3 pen). Halftime: 13-17.

- NZPA

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