Party at Tony Brown's over quickly
Tony Brown's Ranfurly Shield party in Otago lasted just nine days.
First five-eighth Hayden Parker could have extended the province's celebrations last night but his drop goal attempt after the final hooter was charged down and Hawke's Bay held on for a 20-19 victory.
There is no doubt coach Brown and players like Parker will have a number of "what if'' questions whizzing around their brains over the next few days.
What if Parker had kicked that late drop goal? What if Parker had kicked the wide conversion of Buxton Popoali'i's try a few minutes earlier?
What if referee Mike Fraser had awarded Otago a penalty as they set-up repeated rucks in the final minutes?
Afterwards Brown wasn't about to crucify Parker for his missed kicks or those team-mates who appeared to go away from their defensive plan at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Parker, it needs to be stated, did succeed with four of his six shots at goal. It was also his fine offload to Popoali'i that set-up the left wing's try in the 75th minute and had the 18,185 fans cheering for a dramatic comeback after their side trailed 20-9 in the third quarter.
"I thought we had our chance to win,'' Brown stated. "They played some great footy in the last 15 minutes. We should have won that game.''
This wasn't the shortest shield tenure in history; Waikato only held it for seven days before Canterbury relieved them of it in 2007.
It is of cold comfort for Brown and his captain Paul Grant but at least Hawke's Bay will treasure the Log O' Wood which hasn't been in their possession since 1969.
Brown also believed Fraser froze, stating the ref should have penalised the challengers for flopping over in the rucks in the dying minutes.
"I thought Hawke's Bay played pretty well. 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.
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
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