Poor discipline and a high error rate in the first half proved costly as the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team lost tonight's Mitre 10 Cup Championship rugby final in Rotorua.
The Bay of Plenty Steamers beat the Magpies 12-7 after leading 6-0 at halftime at the International Stadium. The Magpies conceded seven penalties in the first half while only having one awarded in their favour.
The Steamers opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a handy penalty kick by first five-eighth Dan Hollinshead after the Magpies were penalised for hands in the ruck.
The visitors were unlucky not to reply when halfback Folau Fakatava was ruled by the television match official to have lost the ball over the tryline in the eighth minute in a superb tackle from Bay of Plenty openside flanker Mitch Karpik. First five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie beat a couple of defenders before sending Fakatava away.
Hawke's Bay enjoyed the territorial advantage and had more possession from this point. However they were unable to score.
Within two minutes of the momentum back in their favour the Steamers were awarded a 27th minute penalty but Hollinshead failed with the kick at goal. Both teams were guilty of making too many errors during the first 25 minutes and were both guilty of conservative play.
Bay of Plenty went into the interval with a 6-0 lead after Hollinshead slotted another handy penalty kick after the halftime siren. The Magpies didn't deserve to be in the lead at this point.
They were on the receiving end of a 7-1 penalty count dished out by Taranaki referee Richard Kelly and conceded too many soft turnovers. The fact they didn't capitalise on Fakatava's tryscoring situation was also crucial.
However their defensive effort was sound and they were still in the hunt provided they scored first in the second half. Openside flanker Brendon O'Connor had a massive first 40 minutes and winger Mason Emerson was enterprising.
Both teams were guilty of kicking too much possession away in the first half.
The Magpies discipline didn't improve in the third quarter and Hollinshead gave the Steamers a 9-0 lead with a handy penalty kick in the 44th minute after a Magpies was ruled to have left the lineout early. Three minutes later Hollinshead was on target with a penalty kick from out wide after another breakdown infringement from the visitors.
Hawke's Bay had to score next and it didn't look good when the Magpies turned down three points and lost their third lineout against the throw in the 55th minute. However they scored the first try of the match two minutes later after an intercept from winger Jonah Lowe. Fullback Tiaan Falcon converted and the Magpies trailed by five.
There were several momentum swings and one of the most significant was when Steamers fullback Emoni Narawa failed to throw a lineout ball five metres to himself in the 72nd minute. The Magpies retained possession for 28 phases going into the 79th minute but the Steamers held them out and that defensive work was another of the reasons why they deserve the title and promotion to the Premiership.
Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon said he was stoked with the effort from his troops and the commitment to the cause.
"We've got a young side and we took some good lessons this season. I'm still disappointed we could not get the job done but I'm still happy with the boys."
Dixon pointed out he didn't want to ue the previous week's 100-minute 44-39 semifinal win over Otago as an excuse.
"I thought we had the right game plan but we didn't quite execute it."
Heartstopper: When Magpies halfback Folau Fakatava lost the ball in a try-saving tackle from Steamers openside flanker Mitch Karpik in the eighth minute. Had he scored the visitors would have taken the lead.
Turning point: When the Steamers took a 12-0 lead in the 47th minute. In the context of this encounter it was always going to be tough for the Magpies from here.
Player of the match: Steamers blindside flanker Tom Franklin. Displayed the benefits of his vast experience. Powerful carries, a huge defensive workrate and composed decisions.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 7 (Jonah Lowe try; Tiaan Falcon con), Bay of Plenty 12 (Dan Hollinshead 4 pens). HT: BOP 6-0.