Guildford shines as Magpies down the Stags
All Blacks shows his class for MagpiesNATHAN BURDON
Zac Guildford may be a forgotten man in terms of the All Blacks, but he was the difference between Hawke's Bay and Southland at Rugby Park in Invercargill tonight.
Guildford scored a try and set up another in the second half to help turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 23-15 win and set up a likely home semifinal for the Magpies.
The Stags, who were unable to provide hooker David Hall with a win to celebrate his 100th game for the province, will now head to Pukekohe next week possibly needing to win a Ranfurly Shield challenge to book their place in the playoffs.
It was a game Southland fullback Robbie Robinson would probably rather forget, his hands letting him down twice in the first few minutes and his confidence appearing to dip as result.
Another top performance from Southland No 8 Elliot Dixon also went unrewarded.
The first half was marked by an odd incident where referee Richard Kelly went to the TMO to confirm whether Scott Eade had landed a penalty from 40m out in front.
Eade was adamant he'd been successful, and even though there was nothing conclusive from side-on replays, Kelly eventually agreed.
After a nervous start by both teams, Eade's penalty and two from Ihaia West looked like being the only points of the first half.
Hawke's Bay were denied a try when Guildford's final pass to Trinity Spooner-Neera was judged forward, while Southland had two or three chances but were unable to get enough numbers to the ruck when they had the Magpies stretched in their 22m.
A lovely raking kick by Marty McKenzie went unrewarded when the thrown at the 5m lineout when over the top.
Southland opted for a kick into the corner instead of an angled penalty kick in the final two minutes of the half.
After Hawke's Bay were penalised again for pushing in the lineout, the Stags organised a lineout drive which saw John Hardie crash over to give Southland an 8-6 lead at the break.
Southland started the second half well and scored a second try through Willis Halaholo after a flat pass by McKenzie.
Unfortunately for the Stags, the also lost both their starting locks on either side of the try with both Michael Fatialofa and Josh Bekhuis injured out of the game.
Hawke's Bay had one-point lead heading into the final half hour after a Guildford try which came of an Andrew Horrell pass which was just as flat as McKenzie's.
Guildford had been in the game throughout, and it was his receipt of an innocuous Southland midfield kick which saw West hare away for a game-breaking try which he converted from near the sideline.
Hawke's Bay 23 (Zac Guildford, Ihaia West tries, Ihaia West 3 pen, 2 con) Southland 15 (John Hardie, Willis Halaholo tries; Scott Eade pen, con)
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