Hawke's Bay 35
Counties Manukau 11
So much for the Premiership and Championship divide.
As they did in 2014, the Championship province Hawke's Bay came to Pukekohe, saw and conquered. This time they already had the Ranfurly Shield, but the manner in which they went about their work was again impressive. They scored four tries and could have had at least three more, such was their dominance.
Fullback Israel Dagg had little ball to show his wares as he did in his hat-trick outing against Otago, but his hefty right boot was on show. His old mate Zac Guildford had an eventful night on the right wing, scoring one intercept try, having two ruled out and lucky to avoid a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Cardiff Vaega. All Blacks prop Ben Franks got through 63 minutes of work for Hawke's Bay.
The highlight for the Steelers, other than some rugged charges by No 8 Maama Vaipulu, was a jarring hit by Johnny Fa'auli on his opposite Andrew Horrell. But it was too little, too late.
In the first half, the Steelers broke the line often enough, but could not convert their opportunities, while the Magpies struck with deadly accuracy when they were hot on attack.
No 8 and captain Brendon O'Connor was as industrious as ever. Lock Mark Abbott crossed for his first ITM Cup try, while second five Andrew Horrell nailed the second and will surely need to buy his midfield partner Richard Buckman a beer after the 'Barracuda' ran a gap and slipped a sweet pop pass to him in the right corner.
Ihaia West kicked six from six. Robbie Fruean was named on the wing for Hawke's Bay, but did not run onto the field.
Steelers wing Frank Halai, on the comeback trail, ran with admirable vigour but was understandably short of a gallop.
Counties Manukau next travel to New Plymouth on Wednesday night to face Taranaki, while Hawke's Bay defend the Shield against North Harbour next Saturday night.
Hawke's Bay 35 (Mark Abbott, Andrew Horrell, Zac Guildford, Shannan Chase tries; Ihaia West 3 con, 3 pen) Counties Manukau 11 (Maama Vaipulu try; Piers Francis 2 pen) Halftime: 20-3 Hawke's Bay