Here's an indication of how tough the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby squad is on themselves in their quest for Mitre 10 Cup Championship glory.
Within minutes of Magpies fullback Tiaan Falcon completing his player-of-the-match performance in Saturday's 44-39 semifinal victory against Otago at Napier's McLean Park there were no congratulatory words from head coach Mark Ozich for Falcon. Instead Ozich was questioning why Falcon didn't attempt a dropped goal during the final minutes of regulation time as, had one been successful, the 20 minutes of extra time in the thriller could have been avoided.
"We trained it and he nailed it at our Captain's Run. I suppose that's heat of the moment stuff," Ozich lamented.
"But I love the spirit in the side," Ozich said referring to their ability to secure the win and a berth in Friday night's final against Bay of Plenty in Rotorua after trailing 21-7 after 27 minutes.
He agreed his troops didn't start well and took a while to adjust to the interpretations of Auckland referee Angus Mabey particularly at maul and breakdown time. Hawke's Bay trailed 24-14 at halftime and the score was 31-all at the end of regulation time.
"At halftime the boys were pretty positive. We knew we had the potential to chase them down and what our impact players could offer, I mean look what Devan Flanders did," Ozich explained.
Shortly after taking the field Flanders scored a 60th minute try which broke a 24-all deadlock and eight minutes later he made a try-saving tackle. Ozich is confident the Magpies can lift their level of play to the standard required for a Steamers outfit which walloped Manawatu 64-3 in their semifinal on Friday night.
"How we recover after 100 minutes of football and control our emotional energy is crucial," Ozich said.
"If we get our mindset right and bring the necessary physicality levels at collision time I'm sure we will compete," he added.
The Magpies are likely to miss the services of outside back Caleb Makene after being knocked out during a head clash and lock Michael Allardice is also doubtful with a shoulder injury.
Falcon did well to slot all eight of his attempts at goal in tricky windy conditions. During his 11 carries Falcon had an average gain of 3.91 metres and beat four defenders.
"It was just a case of one kick at a time and sticking to my processes. After last year's loss to Otago [20-19] in the semifinals we've worked really hard to be in this position and the job isn't over yet," Falcon said afterwards.
Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon again led the hosts in admirable fashion. It was pleasing to see the Magpies secure territory before playing the short game in the final minutes of extra time unlike in the corresponding game last year when they played the short game too early in their own half and paid the price.
Dixon beat five defenders during his 15 carries and made 11 tackles. Lock Tom Parsons again had a huge workrate and finished with 10 carries and 12 tackles.
Halfback Folau Fakatava again impressed with his option taking. While winger Mason Emerson will be disappointed with his loose carry which led to an Otago try he more than made up for it with a crucial try in extra time and finished the game with an average gain of 7.57m from his 14 carries and five defenders beaten.
The Magpies will have to improve their missed tackle count of 33 if they are to beat the Steamers. They will also need to reduce their turnovers conceded count of 14.
Heartstopper: When Magpies winger Caleb Makene was knocked out in a head clash in the 15th minute. When he was replaced by Ollie Sapsford the Magpies were already down to one back reserve in Jonah Lowe after opting for a six-two split on the bench.
Turning point: When referee Angus Mabey blew the final whistle after 100 minutes of thrilling rugby.
Player of the match: Magpies fullback Tiaan Falcon. Eight successes from as many attempts at goal including several crucial ones.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 44 (Neria Fomai, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Lincoln McClutchie, Devan Flanders, Mason Emerson tries; Tiaan Falcon 5 cons, 3 pens ), Otago 39 (Michael Collins 2, Slade McDowall, Aleki Morris-Lome tries; Josh Ioane 4 cons, 2 pens ). HT: Otago 24-14.