Canterbury: 27
Hawke's Bay: 20

Canterbury were filled to the gunwales with their All Blacks but they had to fight to beat Hawke's Bay 27-20 in their top of the table Air NZ rugby clash in Napier tonight.

It was controversial with Hawke's Bay denied a try to prop Faka'anaua Taumalolo after the final whistle had blown, with the match officials ruling that he had not scored despite television replays suggesting he had.

Trailing 14-17 at halftime, the defending champions, fielding 10 current or past All Blacks, needed another "special" from first five-eighth Daniel Carter.


Carter duly delivered by scoring all his side's points in the second half with two penalties, a try and a conversion to give them the win.

For Hawke's Bay, the bonus point they secured for losing by seven points or less kept alive their hopes of securing a home semifinal.

Canterbury opened with a slick try. From a lineout, and then a ruck, the ball was moved wide at express speed for winger James Paterson to beat a scrambling defence and dot down for Carter to convert.

But Hawke's Bay, backed by a baying crowd of 17,000 that packed their Napier ground, regained their poise and put Canterbury on the back foot with their astute kicking game.

Fullback Israel Dagg, wing Zac Guildford and first five-eighth Matt Berquist took every opportunity to rocket bombs into Canterbury territory and began to turn the game around.

They scored 17 unanswered points in the space of about 30 minutes as Berquist started their roll by popping over two penalties and a dropped goal.

Then came a brilliant team try involving lock George Naoupu, skipper Jason Shoemark and No 8 Thomas Waldrom.

Guildford was the beneficiary of the flowing move, squirting across in the corner for his 13th try of the season.

Berquist, who missed the conversion, had the crowd in raptures minutes later when he coolly slotted a monster 55m penalty.

Carter then showed his class, gliding through a half gap to set up a try for Richie McCaw before the teams took the halftime breather with Hawke's Bay leading 17-14.

Canterbury regained the lead as Carter put over two early penalties. But Berquist tied the score again with another penalty.

Then came Carter's solo try.

Taking the ball inside the 22m, he stepped inside and then showed his strength to carry two tacklers across as he dotted down.

Waldrom, openside flanker Karl Lowe, hooker Hikawira Elliot and Taumololo put in huge efforts to try and drag Hawke's Bay back into the game but to no avail as Canterbury battened down the hatches after Carter's try.

But their efforts almost paid off in the dying seconds as Waldrom took a quick tap penalty inside the Canterbury 22 and the ball was moved wide to Taumololo.

It looked as if Taumololo had scored right by the left flag post but referee Chris Pollock did not award the try after being told by his assistant that a part of the prop's body had cut the line before he slammed the ball down with halfback Andy Ellis hanging on for dear life.