Hawke's Bay on the charge
Sunday, August 21, 2011 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
The result propelled the Magpies to a share of top spot on the competition table alongside Manawatu with two games remaining on their schedule. Even if the Bay lose both without bonus points, third-placed Otago can only tie them with wins and bonus points in their final two outings.
The home team was first on the scoreboard when Counties Manukau was penalised at the breakdown and Andrew Horrell goaled from wide.
With a wealth of possession, Bay continued to storm their opponents' line and were twice held up over the line before flanker Karl Lowe finally found a way under the Counties defence for the opening try in the 13th minute.
Lowe was in again after fellow loose forward Trent Boswell-Wakefield galloped into the 22 and the pack carried the move on. Hawke's Bay were scoring at a point a minute and the South Aucklanders simply could not keep the ball long enough to create any opportunities.
Fullback Mark Jackman added to the visitors' woes soon after, running onto an expert grubber kick from first-five Daniel Kirkpatrick for the third try.
Eventually, Counties did manage to grab some possession, but their attacking efforts repeatedly faltered through a deluge of poor options and handling errors. Their best chance came after half an hour when awarded a penalty directly in front of the Bay goalposts, but they turned down the kick and were rudely shunted off the ball in the ensuing scrum.
Moments later, they drew another penalty in a similar position and from the tap kick, Steelers centre Bundee Aki finally powered over to get his side on the board.
Hawke's Bay had dominated the opening stages, but had surrendered momentum and given their rivals a sniff of hope heading into the break. They also lost inspirational captain Mark Coman to injury at halftime, while Counties coach Milton Haig made some key substitutions, bringing on rampaging No 8 Fritz Lee and inserting Baden Kerr for James Semple at the pivot.
The Steelers began the second half with plenty of enterprise, but again conceded first points when Horrell was hit with a head-high tackle and regathered himself to kick the penalty.
Then, the Bay backs strung together a fine series of interpassing down the left sideline and when centre Tu Umaga-Marshall needed support just short from the tryline, he found it in the form of rubbling prop Ben Tameifuna for the bonus point.
Counties struck back when second-five Reynold Lee-Lo made a promising burst into the 22 and Sherwin Stowers was on the end of the backline move for a try. But replacement Maselino Paulino and wing Richard Buckman put the icing on the cake for the hosts.
With the win, Hawke's Bay joined Manawatu at the head of the championship table with a 6-2 record, while Counties' slim finals hopes ended as they slumped to 3-6.
Hawke's Bay 44 (Karl Lowe 2, Mark Jackman, Ben Tameifuna, Maselino Paulino, Richard Buckman tries; Andrew Horrell 4 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 14 (Bundee Aki, Sherwin Stowers tries; James Semple con; Baden Kerr con).HT: 24-7
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