Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team head coach Mark Ozich was quick to have a celebratory drink last night and he and the team deserved a couple.
"This is for the boys as well as Tom, his family and their new arrival," Ozich said referring to lock Tom Parsons who missed the side's Mitre 10 Cup 27-24 crossover victory against Waikato in Hamilton.
Parsons was a late withdrawal from the team after his partner, Grace Ruddenklau, went into labour on Tuesday. They welcomed their first child, a 2.721kg daughter, Charlotte, into the world at 11.30pm.
Charlotte, who arrived three weeks early, is the first grandchild for Parsons' parents, Margot and former Magpies forward Rod.
"That's one of the reasons this win was so special. We had to make a few late changes after Tom withdrew. Not only that ... we also had to cope with a sinbinning but were still able to come up here and bank five competition points against a Premiership side," Ozich said.
"I'm really proud of the boys, the heart they displayed and the way they went about getting the win. The history books were against us but we were still able to do it," Ozich added.
His unbeaten Championship leaders claimed their first Premiership scalp of the season, their first win against Waikato since 2008 and first victory in Hamilton since 1991. Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon, who again led his troops in admirable fashion, was just as delighted as Ozich.
"It was a tough one and we had to dig deep. We fought back really well in the second half. Both teams put in big efforts and both missed some detail in the process but because it's pretty rare for us to win up here I couldn't be happier," Dixon said.
Ozich pointed out that apart from a few stitches his troops got through relatively unscathed. Lock Michael Allardice appeared to have collected a serious knock to his shoulder but Ozich said there were no issues there.
Hawke's Bay's young inside back combination of halfback Folau Fakatava and first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie operated well behind a cohesive Magpies forward pack. The visitors' defence was top shelf.
However, the Magpies were fortunate Waikato's lineout didn't function as well as it should have. This is also a tribute to the ability of the Magpies' jumpers, particularly No 8 Gareth Evans, to read the hosts' throws.
McClutchie beat 10 defenders during the match and finished with an average gain of 9.75 metres from his eight carries. The Magpies made 186 tackles in the game, 103 more than Waikato and missed 37, 15 more than Waikato.
Busy Magpies openside flanker Brendon O'Connor made 20 tackles. Centre Stacey Ili made 17 and No 8 Gareth Evans 16.
The Magpies enjoyed the early territorial advantage and were rewarded with a try in the second minute to McClutchie. It followed a brilliant 40-metre solo run.
Although McClutchie appeared to lose the ball over the line, referee Nick Briant awarded it and McClutchie added the extras.
Possession and territory was relatively even until McClutchie extended the lead with a handy penalty kick in the 16th minute after Briant ruled the Waikato frontrow had collapsed the scrum.
Waikato opened their account when winger Solomon Alaimalo celebrated his debut with a try which was converted by first five-eighth Rivez Reihana. The try followed an attack from the hosts through the backline and, when the ball fell loose when Magpies winger Neria Fomai almost grabbed an intercept, Waikato fullback Matty Lansdown was quick to pounce with a clever miss pass which put Alaimalo into space.
Hawke's Bay's defence was outstanding until Waikato centre Quinn Tupaea scored in the 39th minute. It came off a good flat pass from Reihana when the Magpies were down a player after winger Mason Emerson had been sinbinned for an early tackle.
Waikato led 14-10 at the interval. The fact the Magpies made 90 tackles in the first half, 75 more than Waikato, was an indication of how much the hosts dominated possession and territory during the second quarter.
Tupaea scored his second try in the 42nd minute. It followed good support play from the Waikato backs after a powerful scrum from the hosts.
The Magpies conceded 12 points while Emerson was in the bin.
Magpies halfback Folau Fakatava scored a crucial try in the 50th minute. It came after nine phases of pick and go from the Hawke's Bay pack.
McClutchie converted and the visitors were back in the hunt. Hawke's Bay regained the lead with a try to prop Pouri Rakete-Stones in his blazer game after a drive from the Magpies pack.
Waikato's engine room was down a player at that stage after lock Antonio Shalfoon had been sinbinned in the 59th minute.
The Magpies had the bonus point for four tries when Emerson redeemed himself for his sinbinning with a try in the 65th minute to put the Bay ahead 27-19.
Waikato had a sniff of victory after replacement loosie Simon Parker dived over for the hosts' bonus point try in the 72nd minute. His team had to settle for two bonus points and another close loss.
"This has been our story of the last few weeks. Critical moments went against us and it was disappointing we weren't able to capitalise on the pressure we created," Waikato captain and second five-eighth Dwayne Sweeney lamented afterwards.
Heartstopper: The sinbinning of Magpies winger Mason Emerson in the 38th minute for an early tackle. Referee Nick Briant mentioned the possibility of a penalty try to his assistant referee but that wasn't warranted and, fortunately for the Magpies, not awarded.
Turning point: When referee Nick Briant blew the final whistle. The match could have gone either way until then.
Player of the match: Magpies first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie. A cracker of a solo try even if it was debatable and sound game management from then on.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 27 (Lincoln McClutchie, Folau Fakatava, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Mason Emerson tries; McClutchie pen, 2 cons), Waikato 24 (Quinn Tupaea 2, Solomon Alaimalo, Simon Parker tries; Rivez Reihana 2 cons). HT: Waikato 14-10.