True the error rate was too high but the character, determination and courage from the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team was top shelf on Friday night.

Two years after losing 40-27 to the Wellington Lions in the capital the Magpies drew 27-all with their Hurricanes region big brothers in a Mitre 10 Cup crossover clash at Napier's McLean Park. Considering the Magpies trailed 24-12 after 42 minutes, missed 40 tackles and conceded 12 turnovers they did well to secure the draw and more importantly they have eight Championship points on the points table out of a possible 10 after two rounds.

Magpies first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie's relief was easy to see after he kicked the injury-time penalty to snatch the draw. Earlier in the match he missed a couple of crucial kicks for touch as well as two attempts at goal and he was responsible for four of the Bay's missed tackles.

His halfback and a fellow member of the national title-winning 2017 Hastings Boys' High School first XV Folau Fakatava had a rush of blood and attempted a solo-effort try when the Magpies were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute when they trailed 24-19. But Fakatava was ruled by Irish referee Frank Murphy to have made a double movement on the way to getting the ball across the tryline and the hosts had another entry in the turnovers conceded column.


"There were a lot of errors particularly from our young players. But it is up to us to back them and you have to take the good with the bad. If you have those moments again different decisions will be made and that's part of the learning process," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich explained afterwards.

"Taking the draw was definitely the right decision," Ozich said referring to the fact his troops could have opted to attempt a match-winning try with a higher risk of missing out.

To be fair to the Magpies youngsters it wasn't only them who made errors. The team's most experienced player, Maori All Black and Hurricanes prop Ben May, attempted to charge down a penalty attempt from Lions first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop in the 72nd minute when he isn't permitted to do so.

Garden-Bachop missed that attempt but he succeeded with his second chance to give the Lions a 27-19 lead.

"We all make errors and Ben is no different. We will get more tough games like this and we can take these learnings into them," Ozich said.

"The boys dug in really well and while everything wasn't accurate the effort was there. We've got the buy in and we are together," he added.

His troops courageous comeback was spectacular. Winger Mason Emerson used his gas to send fullback Caleb Makene over for his 76th minute try.

While McClutchie missed the conversion attempt he slotted the more handy late penalty attempt which could prove the difference between a home and away semifinal later in the season.


Makene can be proud of his contribution - an average gain of 5.67m from his 12 carries, five defenders beaten and just one missed tackle. Centre Stacey Ili was full of enterprise with three defenders beaten during his eight carries. While Ili made 12 tackles he will be disappointed with his eight misses.

Second five-eighth Danny Toala also beat five defenders and had an average gain of seven metres from his nine carries. Lock Tom Parsons continued his outstanding form from the previous week's win against the Turbos with 13 carries and 10 tackles.

Magpies No 8 Gareth Evans was error-free on defence and had an average gain of 5.50 metres from his eight carries and beat three defenders before sending Hurricanes teammate Toala over for his 52nd minute try.

Maori All Black prop Pouri Rakete-Stones again enhanced his chances of Super selection with some powerful carries and a high defensive workrate. Maori All Black captain and hooker Ash Dixon again led the hosts by example with an average gain of 8.57m from his seven carries and seven tackles.

Lions captain and openside flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi deserved the player-of-the-match award with 12 tackles, powerful carries and plenty of authority at the breakdown. His No 8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas impressed with five defenders beaten during his nine carries which produced an average gain of 6.67m.

All of the Lions backs were dangerous and second five-eighth Peter Umaga-Jensen did well to finish with five defenders beaten.

Match highlights

Heartstopper: When Magpies openside flanker Brendon O'Connor was denied a second try when he spilt the ball over the tryline in the 17th minute.

Turning point: When Magpies first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie slotted the last minute penalty to secure the draw. Wellington had the victory until then.

Player of the match: Lions openside flanker and captain Du'Plessis Kirifi. A huge defensive workrate, full of authority at the breakdown and powerful on the carry

Scorers: Hawke's Bay 27 (Brendon O'Connor, Tom Parsons, Danny Toala, Caleb Makene tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, pen) Wellington 27 (Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Vince Aso, Xavier Numia tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, pen). HT: Wellington 17-12.