Northland snatch late victory over Hawke's Bay
Northland snatched an extra time victory over Hawke's Bay 23-21 with a remarkable Dan Hawkins sideline conversion in their national provincial championship rugby match at a wet Whangarei tonight.
Hawkes Bay had looked to have backed up successfully from their Ranfurly Shield victory last weekend but were undone in the 83rd minute when Michael Stolberg crossed after sustained Northland pressure in the closing minutes.
The Bay had the challenge of refocusing after the Shield success over Counties-Manukau and the sodden conditions, which had all the players sloshing about, made it doubly difficult.
The visitors scored the only try of the first half when flanker Brendon O'Connor drove over from well-controlled maul midway through the half after the Bay had declined a kickable penalty goal position.
That contributed to the Bay leading 11-6 at halftime after both teams had also kicked two penalties apiece.
Hawkes Bay extended that to 18-6 when winger Ryan Tongia capitalised on a Northland error after the slippery ball was spilled from an aerial kick.
The Taniwha came back into contention when flanker Dan Pryor crossed after charging down a Bay clearing kick and winning the race for the ball.
Dan Hawkins converted and then landed a penalty goal to close the margin to two.
But replacement first five-eighth Matt Berquist gave the Bay a little more breathing space with another penalty goal after 70 minutes.
Northland then camped on the Bay line late in the match before Stolberg went over but it was Hawkins who iced the cake with his dramatic conversion.
Northland 23 (Dan Pryor, Michael Stolberg tries; Dan Hawkins 2 conv, 3 pen) Hawkes Bay 21 (Brendon O'Connor, Ryan Tongia tries; Ihaia West conv, 2 pen; Matt Berquist pen) HT: 6-11.
What did you make of this year's ITM Cup?