Rugby: Hickey's heroics help Auckland escape

Hawke’s Bay 24 Auckland 25
Auckland were left to thank Simon Hickey's accuracy for escaping with victory. Photo / photosport.nz
Auckland were left to thank Simon Hickey's accuracy for escaping with victory. Photo / photosport.nz

Auckland tonight survived a serious scare against winless Hawke's Bay, bailed out by Simon Hickey's boot to leap into second in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership.

The Magpies had for much of the match looked on course to record their first victory of the season but were left rooted to the bottom of the standings after squandering several late leads and a last-gasp chance to triumph.

In the end, the difference came down to the respective goal-kickers. While Hickey's 76th-minute penalty - his fifth of the match - capped a late comeback and put his side ahead, Ihaia West then missed a challenging penalty with the final kick of the game as Auckland escaped from Napier with a win that lifted them to within a point of leaders Canterbury.

While happy with the end result, Auckland would have been less thrilled with the manner of victory, being second best through large portions of the contest, particularly during a first half dominated by the home side.

Playing with a big breeze at their backs, Hawke's Bay produced probably their best half of the season but led only 11-3 at the halftime break, with West's charge-down try and two penalties representing his side's scoring in the first 40 minutes.

For all their positive running, though, the Magpies lacked a little accuracy and were also missing a clinical edge that could have put away their opponents, creating more chance than Auckland but eventually left to rue their profligacy.

The visitors were initially unable to offer much more than Simon Hickey's accuracy from the tee and, midway through the half, their hole became deeper when Mark Abbot busted through to score his side's second try and convert pressure into points.

But falling further behind only sparked Auckland's resurgence, as first Greg Pleasants-Tate and then Vince Aso scored in the left corner to pull Auckland within touching distance. And after missing the sideline conversions, Hickey nailed a routine penalty that would prove the difference, although the visitors were still left holding their breaths as West erred in the final moments.

Hawke's Bay 24 (I. West, M. Abbott tries; I. West 4 pens, con)
Auckland 25 (G. Pleasants-Tate, V. Aso tries; S. Hickey 5 pens)
Halftime: 11-3

- NZ Herald

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