Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Richard Kinnear was only given the nod to play in today's national' />

7.00pm

HAWKE'S BAY 37 COUNTIES MANUKAU 16

Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Richard Kinnear was only given the nod to play in today's national second division rugby final this morning.

But he still delivered the goods with a 17-point haul as the Magpies retained their NPC second division trophy with a 37-16 win over Counties Manukau at Napier's McLean Park. This set the Magpies up for a repeat of last year's promotion-relegation clash with Bay of Plenty in Rotorua next Saturday.

Kinnear replaced Tim Manawatu in the Magpies starting line-up. Manawatu was given until this morning to prove he had recovered from a knee injury but failed a fitness test.

"I was given plenty of training time with the starters in case Tim couldn't play so I was reasonably prepared," said Kinnear, who kicked five penalties and a conversion from nine attempts at goal in windy conditions.

He opened the scoring with a penalty in the second minute from 26 metres out. His Counties Manukau counterpart Quintan Sanft kicked an equaliser from in front seven minutes later.

In-form Magpies winger Ray Karauria scored the first of his two tries in the 23rd minute after an impressive patch of Magpies domination which saw the hosts forward pack produce a 20 metre rolling maul. Kinnear added the conversion.

Counties Manukau had to wait until the 28th minute for their first try which was scored by flanker Semisi Saukawa after what appeared to be a forward pass from fullback Amasio Valance. Another mighty Hawke's Bay forward charge led to outstanding blindside flanker Michael Johnson's try right on halftime.

The closest Counties Manukau got to the rampant Magpies was in the 44th minute when Sanft kicked his second penalty to have the Steelers trailing 15-11.

Hard working Hawke's Bay openside flanker Dave Gower scored the Bay's third try in the 50th minute after another patch of forward domination. Eight minutes later Karauria had his second try, following consultation between Wellington referee Lyndon Bray and Manawatu video referee Chris Rooney.

Kinnear landed his second penalty in the 71st minute.

Counties Manukau's scoring machine Setiveni Sitivatu received few attacking opportunities in the game but still managed his 14th NPC try of the season -- a Counties Manukau record -- in the 73rd minute.

Kinnear dominated the final five minutes of the game with penalties in the 76th, 79th and 81st minutes.

While happy Magpies coach Kieran Keane was right when he said all of his players were outstanding in Hawke's Bay's ninth consecutive NPC win of the season, several deserved special mention for their efforts.

They were lock Lua Lokotui and Johnson in the forwards and Kinnear, centre Sam Leung-Wai and Karauria in the backs.

Counties Manukau deserve praise for displaying improvement on their 51-20 round robin loss to Hawke's Bay but they were still outgunned.

Losing coach Bruce Robertson was quick to praise Hawke's Bay for denying his team so much possession but equally quick to point out toppling Bay of Plenty will still be "a challenge" for the Magpies.

Robertson will be back again next year to "have another crack" at getting Counties Manukau back up to first division.

Hawke's Bay 37 (Ray Karauria 2, Dave Gower, Michael Johnson tries; Richard Kinnear 5 pen, con)

Counties Manukau 16 (Semisi Saukawa, Setiveni Sitivatu tries; Quintan Sanft 2 pen)

Halftime: 15-8

- HAWKE'S BAY TODAY

NPC schedule/scoreboard