Winger Mason Emerson was quick to heap kudos on player-of-the-match Folau Fakatava after their Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team maintained their unbeaten run tonight.
"It's always good to have players like Folau running rings around them. Hopefully he helps me get a few more dots before the season ends," Emerson said pointing to Fakatava as the Magpies signed autographs following their seventh Mitre 10 Cup Championship seventh round 35-17 victory against Taranaki at Napier's McLean Park.
It was the Magpies first win against Taranaki since 2014 and Emerson, who was marking former All Black Waisake Naholo, scored two tries.
"It's always awesome to go up against world class opposition and while we didn't get too many one-on-ones against him you play better when you're up against players like him," Emerson explained.
While he pointed out securing the win was a grind for the hosts in front of 6698 fans Emerson said there was a real buzz within the Magpies environment.
"It makes it easier to go to training each week. We want to keep getting better and keep performing well for the province every week."
Captain Ash Dixon echoed Emerson's words and pointed out there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. At the same time Dixon praised Taranaki for their contribution to the encounter and pointed out the score didn't reflect how hard Taranaki played.
The Magpies displayed their intentions early when Emerson scored in the first minute. It followed a clever burst from Fakatava at a tap penalty before he put up a chip kick. First five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie converted.
A fortunate bounce of the ball was pivotal in Taranaki's reply in the ninth minute. Fullback Jayson Potroz scored after winger Jackson Ormond regathered a kick ahead, passed to fellow winger Waisake Naholo who sent Potroz away. Potroz added the conversion.
Two minutes later Emerson had his second try after another clever dab from Fakatava. McClutchie again converted and the Magpies led 14-7.
Sustained pressure from the Magpies forwards led to second five-eighth Danny Toala's try in the 21st minute. He spun in a tackle and dived over after receiving a superb pass from Fakatava. McClutchie slotted the extras.
Taranaki were dealt a severe blow when former Magpies hooker, Hurricane Ricky Riccitelli, was forced off with a calf injury in the 23rd minute.
Both teams produced some outstanding defence in the second quarter until the halftime whistle. Taranaki's maul defence was particularly impressive during the final nine minutes when the Magpies were forced into errors.
However it was still a pleasing first half from the hosts with lock Tom Parsons prominent in the engine room and obviously making up for lost time after missing last week's win against Waikato with parental duties. Fakatava was classy and Toala and Emerson made the most of their opportunities.
Desperate to stay in the hunt, Taranaki, opened the scoring in the second half with a 41st minute penalty to first five-eighth Stephen Perofeta. Any hope Taranaki had of securing a comeback victory was dashed when they conceded two yellow cards for maul infringements off consecutive plays.
Wellington referee Nick Hogan sinbinned former Magpies lock Leighton Price in the 44th minute and blindside flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis after awarding a penalty try a minute later.
With a two-man advantage the Hawke's Bay pack drove the Taranaki engine room back 20 metres before Fakatava fed Toala who scored beside the posts to give McClutchie another easy conversion.
Taranaki kept their slim hopes of a bonus point for finishing within seven points alive when Bedwell-Curtis scored in the 62nd minute after good pressure from the visitors. Perofeta added the conversion.
The Magpies conceded numerous late penalties but were still able to keep the visitors out and deny them any Championship points while banking another five for themselves.
Heartstopper: Magpies fullback Caleb Makene's 78th minute tackle on Taranaki first five-eighth Stephen Perofeta. It was a beauty.
Turning point: Referee Nick Hogan sinbinning two Taranaki forwards during consecutive plays in the second half.
Player of the match: Magpies halfback Folau Fakatava. Great option, superb distibution and controlled the tempo well.
Hawke's Bay 35 (Mason Emerson 2, Danny Toala 2, penalty try tries; Lincoln McClutchie 4 cons ), Taranaki 17 (Jayson Potroz, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis tries; Potroz con; Stephen Perofeta pen, con ). HT: 21-7.