By Thomas Airey
The Hawke's Bay Magpies won their 10th straight Ranfurly Shield defence on Wednesday evening at McLean Park, defeating South Canterbury 38-20.
Openside flanker Sam Smith scored a try 12 minutes into his Magpies debut a couple of phases after a lineout drive close to the line.
South Canterbury were undeterred and they got on the board with a Sam Briggs penalty goal before taking an unlikely lead in the 17th minute.
A brilliant move sparked by halfback William Wright and winger Kalavini Leatigaga ended in a try for loosehead prop Vaka Taelaga.
That lit a fire under Hawke's Bay and they went straight up the other end for a second try.
After eight strong phases, centre Kienan Higgins danced through the defensive line from close range to score untouched.
Again South Canterbury responded strongly, forcing a couple of penalties to work their way to the tryline before a knock-on.
The Magpies enjoyed absolute dominance at scrum-time and, in the 37th minute, scored their third try after a South Canterbury feed five metres from the tryline.
Pressure from the Hawke's Bay pack saw the ball spill out the side of the scrum for an easy try to halfback Connor McLeod.
A brilliant counterattack after the halftime siren from debutant winger Paoraian Manuel-Harman allowed fullback Caleb Makene to score the Magpies' fourth.
Both teams came close to scoring in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with Hawke's Bay held up over the tryline and South Canterbury forced out just short by some desperate cover defence.
McLeod got his second try in the 57th minute from a nice inside ball by first five eighths Lincoln McClutchie.
That was the halfback's last act of the game with debutant Sheridan Rangihuna coming on to replace him.
McClutchie set up the next try as well, breaking the line and teeing up Manuel-Harman to score in the 64th minute.
Tighthead prop Lewis Bush and second five-eighths Zack Simpson both got off the bench for their Hawke's Bay debuts before fulltime.
South Canterbury finally scored a well-deserved second try in the 72nd minute through second five Paula Fifita.
It looked like the hosts might have had the last say but Rangihuna was held up over the tryline in the 79th minute.
Instead it was South Canterbury who scored another sublime try after the final hooter, with Theo Davidson scoring in the corner.
The next Ranfurly Shield defence is against Poverty Bay on July 30, a week before Hawke's Bay get their Bunnings NPC season underway against Waikato in Hamilton.
Hawke's Bay 38 (Smith, Higgins, McLeod 2, Makene, Manuel-Harman tries; McClutchie 3/5 cons, Rangihuna 1/1 con)
South Canterbury 20 (Taelaga, Fifita, Davidson tries; Briggs pen 1/1, con 0/1, Wright 1/1 con, Strachan 0/1 con)