It wasn't pretty but the Hawke's Bay Magpies pipped the Bay of Plenty Steamers 29-28 in their round four Mitre 10 Cup Championship rugby clash at Napier's McLean Park tonight.
Outstanding impact off the subs bench was a key factor as the Magpies won the MacRae-Shelford Bay Cup and established a seven point lead on the points table. Hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes performed well on debut as a replacement for the injured Ben Power while flanker Will Tremain, lock Geoff Cridge and prop Joe Apikotoa, who scored the matchwinning try, also shone off the pine.
The Magpies had first use of a strong wind and opened the scoring in the second minute when winger Jonah Lowe sored off a clever offload from fullback and Clive teammate JJ Taulagi. The Steamers opened their account in the 16th minute when first five-eighth Mike Delaney kicked a penalty from 30 metres out after Magpies blindside flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u was ruled to have joined the ruck incorrectly by Taranaki referee Richard Kelly.
Delaney missed a penalty attempt from 40 metres out in the 25th minute but slotted one from 30 metres in the 33rd minute to give the visitors a 6-5 lead. His Magpies counterpart Tiaan Falcon put the hosts back in front with a 35 metre penaltry in the 36th minute after Steamers prop Solomona Sakalia was ruled to be offside.
A minute later Steamers halfback Richard Judd scored with a solo dab from a five metre scrum. Delaney added the extras from wide out and the visitors led 13-8 at halftime.
Numerous missed tackles and poor discipline proved costly for the Magpies in the first half. Bay of Plenty's scrum was also superior for most of the first 40.
The Magpies dominated possession and territory early in the second and were rewarded with a 48th minute try to halfback Brad Weber with a replica of Judd's effort. Falcon converted from out wide.
Two minutes later player of the match Weber scored his second try after clever work from Lowe. Falcon again added the extras and the Magpies led 22-13. Judd scored his second try in the 60th minute with a clever run down the blindside.
A soft turnover from the Magpies and a powerful break from substitute lock Aaron Carroll led to a try from Delaney in the 65th minute which he converted to give the Steamers a 25-22 lead. Five minutes later Delaney extended the visitors lead with a handy penalty. To their credit the Magpies kept battling and were rewarded with a 78th minute try to substitute prop Joe Apitokoa which Falcon converted to secure the win.
Hawke's Bay Magpies 29 (Brad Weber 2 Jonah Lowe, Joe Apikotoa tries; Tiaan Falcon 3 cons, pen), Bay of Plenty Steamers 28 (Richard Judd 2, Mike Delaney tries; Delaney 3 pens, 2 cons). HT: Steamers 13-8.