West sparks Hawke's Bay Shield win
Sunday, September 1, 2013 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
It was an nerve-wracking finish as Otago, who left their running game too late, scored their second try with six minutes remaining to pull back within a point. However, first five-eighths Hayden Parker's radar was off with what have been the match-winning conversion while his last second attempt at a dropped goal was charged down.
But, as is so often required of challengers, Hawke's Bay looked the more likely to score tries. West's 57th minute effort was a superb game breaker which showed the depth available at first five-eighths in New Zealand. A Super Rugby contract must surely be the reward for his effort in Dunedin.
He showed his defensive capabilities when putting in a fine cover tackle on Otago No.8 and captain Paul Grant who had picked up a loose ball moments after West's try and set the captain's example by charging toward the line. West may have stopped him but Otago centre Jayden Spence was on hand to pick up the ball and cross to get Otago back to 16-20 down.
Mercurial Otago wing Buxton Popoali'i sparked his side with some outstanding running in the second half and his try with five minutes left gave 22,000 fans hope of retaining the Shield after Hawke's Bay looked to have it all wrapped up.
Otago had attacked the Hawke's Bay line with a series of pick-and-goes and when the ball was release for the backs it was Parker who found the gap and fed Popoali'i over for the try.
Otago forced Hawke's Bay into early errors and the pressure told on the challengers who were guilty of conceding penalties and Parker landed two of his first three shots at goal to give Otago a 6-0 lead.
But once getting over the initial onslaught Hawke's Bay's confidence grew and it soon showed its best competitive touches. They went close after West gave wing Telusa Veainu a short pass as he charged in from the short side.
The ball was moved to centre Richard Buckman and he released a clever pass from the ground in the tackle and livewire flanker Brendan O'Connor carried play forward but the move broke down with a knock-on and Otago cleared.
But Hawke's Bay secured their first points in the 31st minute when West landed a penalty goal. However, the consequences were felt immediately by Otago because a short re-start was moved by Hawke's Bay after a chargedown saw wing Zac Guildford tidy up.
The ball was moved to Buckman and spying lock Tom Donnelly moving in for the tackle, he put his foot down and accelerated past him. And then unleashed a backhand pass a la Sonny Bill Williams which fullback Gillies Kaka took before putting Veainu into space to clear out for the try.
Otago were guilty of missing 16 tackles to three by Hawke's Bay and that told as the challengers finished the first half stronger. O'Connor and No.8 Mark Atkins, who had an outstanding game, were prominent in putting the pressure on the home defences.
Otago 19 (Jayden Spence, Buxton Popoali'i tries; Hayden Parker 3 pen) Hawke's Bay 20 ( Telusa Veainu, Ihaia West tries; West 2con, 2 pen ). HT: 9-13
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