8.30pm



Wade Owen was called off the bench by his Poverty Bay coach Kiwi Searancke this week but on today's performance he'd be an automatic choice for the newly-promoted rugby province.



Poverty Bay beat Wairarapa-Bush 37-14 in the NPC division three final in Gisborne today and will play in division two next year as a reward.



While the game was tougher and tighter than the margin and three-tries-to-one victory by the home side suggested, there was little doubt their style and attitude would prevail after fullback Semisoni Pone and winger Daniel Moeke scored tries to have them leading 12-3 after the first quarter.

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Among the top performers for Poverty Bay were centre Owen, Pone, first five-eighth Scott Leighton, lock Isoa Domolailai and prop Joe Duffy.



All of them would have enhanced their chances of selection in the New Zealand Divisional team's upcoming to tour Fiji and there could be a battle between the Divisional and Fiji selectors for Domolailai's service.



He was in a commanding form in the lineout and kick-offs -- obtaining a constant flow of possession which the Poverty Bay backs didn't hesitate to attack with.



While Leighton kicked 22 points from six penalties and two conversions, it was Owen who caused most damage to Wairarapa-Bush's aspirations.



He broke the defence almost each time he took the ball using his speed and on two occasions sparked attacks from deep in Poverty Bay's side of the field to enable his team to either kick a penalty or score a try.



The last Poverty Bay team to win the championship in 1987 featured Owen's father Richard, who is the team's manager.



"He knows our style well and it's the reason we slotted him there as soon as we knew James (Kerr) was leaving," a jubilant Poverty Bay coach Kiwi Searancke said.



Kerr, who had played for such teams as Auckland and Canterbury, left to join an Italian club soon after last week's semifinal.



Wairarapa-Bush had the upper hand in the mauls and rucks in the first half but their three-quarters muffed several chances with inexcusable handling errors.



They bombed a try in the fourth minute when Nathan Robinson couldn't hold a pass from winger Esava Tiko with the line beckoning.



The Wairarapa-Bush forwards appeared to become frustrated with their playmakers and other backs because they were not going anywhere with the possession the forwards worked hard for.



That reflected in the only try they scored, five minutes from the end, when they kept the ball to themselves and drove No 8 Mike Robinson over.



In sharp contrast, the Poverty Bay backline led by Leighton attacked with purpose and penetrated the defence. They didn't hesitate to counter attack either.



However, their first try by Pone in the 14th minute was a result of a knock-on by midfield back Mark Jefferson but it wasn't picked up by the match officials.



"Probably more a knock-on," Jefferson admitted later when asked how he handled a pass from Leighton that had led to the try.



The knocked on ball was picked up by Pone -- for the first of his two tries.



The fullback scored his second just three minutes into the second half when his backline attacked from 80m out and Owen opened the defence with a swerving run and pass.



Wairarapa-Bush were hurt most in the forward exchanges, where they dominated first and then committed so many errors that Leighton kicked them out of the game.



They were down 9-18 at halftime and after Pone's second converted try, Wairarapa gave up four close penalties which Leighton gratefully converted.



"The best thing about the team is that we're going to have all these guys back next season because nearly all are home-grown and aren't going anywhere at this stage," Searancke said.



- NZPA




NPC fixtures, results and standings


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