"Gutted with the loss but happy with the improvement."

These were the words of Hawke's Bay's under-19 rugby team's manager Mike Smith after yesterday's 35-33 loss to Tasman at their national tournament in Taupo. Smith said his troops displayed vast improvement on Sunday's 90-0 loss to Bay of Plenty.

"We were more urgent on defence and showed more character as a team. We led 21-15 at halftime. With seven minutes remaining Tasman kicked a penalty to take the lead and then shut up shop after that."

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Magpies loosie Devan Flanders was a late withdrawal from yesterday's game as he was taken to Hamilton for tonight's Ranfurly Shield challenge as a backup in case Gareth Evans is forced out of the Magpies with his eye injury. In his absence Havelock North clubmate Jacob Stephenson was outstanding at No 8.

Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports lock Rangatira Fox grafted well in the Hawke's Bay engine room. The Magpies pair of Tamatea first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie and Hastings Rugby and Sports centre Danny Toala joined Pirate winger Kyle Cornelissen as the pick of the Hawke's Bay backs.

Toala scored a try and kicked four conversions. McClutchie scored two tries. Pirate halfback Flynn Allen and Magpies and Hastings Rugby and Sports hooker Jacob Devery scored the Bay's other tries.

Hawke's Bay will play Taranaki on Saturday in the playoff for seventh. Smith said the team will travel to Hamilton tonight to support the Magpies.