Shield coverage: Hawke's Bay ready to party
Hawke's Bay is getting set to party hard.
Last night's heart-thumping 20-19 victory against Otago hasn't just renewed the Bay's association with the Ranfurly Shield for the first time for 44 years; it has also given them reason to try to shade the previous holders' ability to celebrate the famous rugby trophy.
The Magpies players fly in to Napier today at 12.45pm, with a parade through Napier at 3.30pm. Hastings gets its chance to see the prized shield tomorrow with their own parade.
Hawke's Bay survived a late finish by Otago, who rattled on 10 unanswered points in the last 18 minutes at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and maintained their composure to charge down first five-eighths Hayden Parker's drop goal attempt after the fulltime hooter.
After the match Hawke's Bay wing Zac Guildford even went as far as declaring the win meant as much as securing the 2011 World Cup win.
"I grew-up in Hawke's Bay, I bleed black and white and my heart likes in Hawke's Bay,'' Guildford said. "I love playing for the province and it means a lot.''
When asked if this was the highlight of his coaching career coach Craig Philpott shot back: "What do you think?''
Captain Mike Coman mentioned former Bay giants like Kel Tremain and Ian McRae as he tried to emphasise what this meant to the province.
"I'm just so happy for the people of the Hawke's Bay who have stuck with us through the bad times and the good times. I can't wait to get it back to the Bay,'' Coman said.
Otago's party lasted just nine days and never got past their first challenger.
Otago coach Tony Brown praised the Bay for their win but also believed referee Mike Fraser should have awarded his side a penalty as they attacked in the final minutes.
"At the end of the day the ref's interpretation at the breakdown hurt us and there's probably no more glaring pointer than at the end of the game when we should have got a penalty for not rolling away.
"I just don't think he was willing to pull the trigger in that situation.''
After leading 6-0 in the opening 30 minutes Otago struggled to match the Bay's intensity before lifting their enthusiasm with in final quarter.
Otago's courage was epitomised by Grant's decision to spurn a kickable penalty with around seven minutes left. That eventually led to Popoali'i's try.
Until that point Hawke's Bay had made much of the play.
First five-eighth Ihaia West was hidden back at fullback when his side defended from set pieces but on attack he didn't go missing.
His try mid-way through the second spell was a cracker; from near halfway West noticed Otago halfback Fumiaki Tanaka was a fraction too slow on the drift defence and ignited his jets around the covering Fa'asiu Fuatai.
Right wing Telusa Veainu was rewarded with Hawke's Bay's opening try but it was centre Richard Buckman who deserved the appreciative applause.
From inside his own half Buckman carved through the Otago defence and like a contortionist with a double-joined wrist he deftly slipped a pass to fullback Gillies Kaka who only had to link with Veainu.
Otago attracted a bumper crowd of 18,185 people for their first shield defence since they lost it to Taranaki in 1957.
Now it is Hawke's Bay's turn to reap the benefits of the famous trophy. Their first defence is against Counties-Manukau on Saturday.
Hawke's Bay 20 (Telusa Veainu, Ihaia West tries; West 2 cons, 2 pen).
Otago 19 (Jayden Spence, Buxton Popoali'i tries; Hayden Parker 3 pens) HT: 13-9
- © Fairfax NZ News
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