The Hawke's Bay Magpies maintained their unbeaten Mitre 10 Cup rugby run with a 29-21 victory against Ranfurly Shield holders Otago at Napier's McLean Park tonight.
Both teams had contenders for the All Blacks World Cup squad to be announced next week and all three, Magpies halfback Brad Weber, Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane and hooker Liam Coltman, did nothing to harm their chances of selection.
Weber received the player of the match award but it could have easily have gone to busy loosies Devan Flanders and Geoff Cridge.
The Magpies, who banked the maximum five competition points to take their tally to 13 out of a possible 15, enjoyed the early territorial advantage and were rewarded with a ninth minute try to captain and hooker Ash Dixon. It followed a lineout drive after a penalty, an option which has worked well for the team all season. First five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie slotted the conversion.
Otago replied with a 15th minute try to winger Jona Nareki after a superb miss pass from first five-eighth Josh Ioane who kicked the conversion from the sideline.
The Magpies were unlucky to lose McClutchie to the sinbin for a deliberate knock down in the 21st minute. However, despite being down one player Magpies lock Tom Parsons scored after a forward pack drive in the 25th minute.
Second five-eighth Danny Toala kicked the conversion. Five minutes later Toala was on target with a handy penalty attempt and the Magpies led 17-7.
McClutchie missed a 35th minute penalty attempt and the Magpies kept their 10-point lead until the halftime whistle. The hosts did well to score 10 points while playing with 14 men.
It was a pleasing first half from the Magpies during which they only missed four tackles, six fewer than the Razorbacks.
The Magpies made the ideal start to the second half when Toala scored in the 43rd minute off a super pass from halfback Weber following a maul. McClutchie added the extras.
Wellington referee Mike Fraser received a huge round of applause when he sinbinned Nareki for a similar offence to McClutchie's in the 56th minute.
It was appropriate Weber, who was classy all night, should score the bonus point try in the 57th minute after a solo run to put the Magpies ahead 29-7.
Otago were rewarded for some entertaining play when Ioane scored a soft try under advantage in the 68th minute. Ioane slotted the conversion.
Another soft try to substitute fullback Michael Collins which Ioane converted had the Razorbacks trailing 29-21 with eight minutes remaining. Fortunately the Magpies held them out after a below-par final 10 minutes.
"That last 10 minutes was disappointing from us. If we want to go further we will have to fix that up," Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon said afterwards.
"While I'm happy where we are we know we can be a lot better," Dixon added.
Heartstopper: The 21st minute sinbinning of Magpies first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie after referee Mike Fraser ruled he had deliberately knocked the ball down when Otago were on attack. Fortunately the visitors turned the ball over at the attacking penalty.
Turning point: When Magpies halfback Brad Weber put the hosts ahead 29-7 with his 57th minute solo try. It was always going to be tough for Otago to recover from this deficit.
Player of the match: Weber who made the most of his opportunity to enhance his chances of World Cup squad selection next week.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 29 (Ash Dixon, Tom Parsons, Danny Toala, Brad Weber tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2, Toala cons; Toala pen), Otago 21 (Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Michael Collins tries; Ioane 3 cons). HT: 17-7.