Should the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team miss out on a home semifinal next weekend they will have only themselves to blame.

They had enough opportunities to collect one or two competition points in Thursday night's 29-0 Mitre 10 Cup 10th round crossover loss to the Tasman Mako in Nelson. They were also unlucky not to return home with a point from their 49-24 loss to Canterbury on October 30.

Should Otago beat Waikato in their Ranfurly Shield challenge in Hamilton tonight they will deny the Magpies a home semifinal. If Waikato beat or draw with Otago the Magpies will host a Championship semifinal.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight's clash at Waikato's FMG Stadium, the Magpies will be in the semifinals which was the side's goal at the start of the season.


This is a commendable feat when one takes into account head coach Mark Ozich and his assistant Josh Syms are first timers in their respective roles at this level and 17 of the 36 players named in their squad at the start of the season hadn't played for the team.

It must not be forgotten six of the players Ozich and Syms have used this season were in the Hastings Boys' High School first XV last year.

The Magpies have also played their last seven matches without inspirational captain, Maori All Blacks and Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon, who has been out of action since collecting a season-ending knee injury in the 29-25 loss to Counties-Manukau in round three.

As was the case against Canterbury, the Magpies fielded a new-look squad against Tasman.

Loosie and regular captain in Dixon's absence, Gareth Evans, and his Hurricanes teammate, prop Ben May, and regular midfielder Pasqualle Dunn all didn't play and in-form first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie was a late sub.

After their loss to Canterbury the Magpies fielded a first-string line-up against Manawatu and after a poor first quarter produced a superb final three quarters to win 45-17.

If they can replicate those final 60 minutes for the full 80 in their semifinal they should win it no matter where it is played or who it is against.

While Thursday night's wet weather was a key factor in their 20 turnovers conceded during the first 64 minutes they will still need to show more respect to ball security come semifinal time.

The Magpies scrum didn't function as well as it should have against the Mako.

Improvement should be seen when May and Evans return.

Ozich pointed out his troops struggled with the interpretations of Wellington referee Mike Fraser at scrum time in Nelson.

"We did not get the rub of the green and the experience of Crockett [Tasman captain and former All Blacks prop Wyatt] painted a picture which wasn't there. As a result our platform was always under pressure. It was a good learning experience," Ozich said.

He was happy to report there were no new injuries after the Trafalgar Park encounter.

Like all Magpies fans, he was looking forward to the outcome of today's fixtures which will determine his troops' semifinals opponents.

"We could be playing Otago at home or away or we could be playing Northland at home," Ozich said, referring to the fact Hawke's Bay will host Northland if the Taniwha beat Bay of Plenty in Tauranga this afternoon and Waikato beat Otago tonight.

Hawke's Bay have beaten Otago 31-25 in Dunedin and Northland 55-41 in Napier already this season.

They only have to play to their potential to beat either side again.

A Championship final berth on October 26 is now a realistic goal for the Magpies.

Match highlights:
Heartstopper: When a pass from Magpies flanker Devan Flanders to captain and halfback Brad Weber was intercepted in a try-scoring situation by Mako winger Tima Faingaanuku in the 22nd minute.

Turning point: When Tasman second five-eighth Tim O'Malley scored his try in the 42nd minute to give the hosts a 15-0 lead. It was always going to be tough for the Magpies from there in those conditions.

Player of the match: For the Magpies Flanders. Several lines breaks and a huge defensive workrate. For Tasman first five-eighth Mitch Hunt - 14 points including four from five attempts at goal, outstanding tactical play and a high defensive workrate.

Scorers: Hawke's Bay Magpies 0,
Tasman Mako 29 (Pari Pari Parkinson, Tim O'Malley, Mitch Hunt, Jack Grooby tries; Hunt pen, 3 cons). HT: Mako 10-0.