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Hawke's Bay end with a flourish

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Sunday, October 24, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The only dampener for the visitors was losing openside flanker Karl Lowe to a knee injury inside the opening couple of minutes.

There was nothing riding on the game for either side and it was clear from the start both teams were out to entertain, with little structure to the play as the ball was flung around and eight tries were scored.

Six of those came in the first 16 minutes and highlighted the end of year feel to the match.

While Counties' tries to Fritz Lee, Tim Nanai-Williams and DJ Forbes involved some hard-running by the returning Lee and slick hands through the backs, two of Hawke's Bay's five-pointers - to Bryn Evans and Michael Johnson - were the result of drives from the line-out.

Kahn Fotuali'i' benefited from a Tana Umaga fumble at the restart following Lee's opener to get Hawke's Bay off the mark.

The difference in the first half proved to be in the goal-kicking with Mark Jackman, a late replacement for Jason Shoemark, nailing three conversions and a penalty but Counties first five-eighths Dean Cummins failing to convert any of his side's tries.

That all changed in the second spell when Nanai-Williams took over the kicking duties and kicked an early penalty then converted Ahsee Tuala's bonus-point try before slotting what looked to have been a game-winning three-pointer with eight minutes to go.

But Hawke's Bay had other ideas and Kaka's try, which was converted by Daniel Kirkpatrick, rounded off an entertaining match that could have been won at the death by Counties had Lee's knee not hit the whitewash as he was diving to score in the corner.

The big No.8 had gone over out wide with just two minutes on the clock after great handling by Umaga and Sherwin Stowers.

Fotuali'i's response was immediate and under the posts thanks to Umaga's mistake and shortly afterwards Evans was over for the Magpies' second.

Some more excellent work from Stowers, who drew the defence, put Nanai-Williams over and it was an almost identical backline move that gave Forbes a score in the 12th minute.

Another line-out drive by Hawke's Bay set up Johnson's five-pointer and Jackman's conversion edged the visitors in front again.

It proved to be the only score in a second quarter riddled with errors but was enough to give the Magpies a 24-15 lead heading into the second spell.

Nanai-Williams took over the kicking duties after the break and it didn't take long before the full-back was handed the tee and claimed three points for his side.

But it was his deft little grubber kick after Counties had broken out from their own 22 that set up right wing Tuala for the home side's bonus point try in the 47th minute, which the young No.15 converted as the lead changed hands again.

Another Nanai-Williams penalty meant Hawke's Bay needed a try to snatch victory and Kaka did the honours beating James Semple, Cummins and Siale Piutau to dot down the match-winner.

Scorers: Counties 28 (Fritz Lee, Tim Nanai-Williams, DJ Forbes, Ahsee Tuala tries; Nanai-Williams con, 2 pen) Hawke's Bay 31 ( Kahn Fotuali'i, Bryn Evans, Michael Johnson, Gillies Kaka tries; Mark Jackman 3 con, pen; Daniel Kirkpatrick con). HT: 15-24