Hawke's Bay claim thrilling final from Wellington

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Friday, October 23, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Just as Hawke's Bay had been denied in the past by late kicks at goal, it was their turn to take the win, and it was justice that first five-eighths West should be the hero after an outstanding evening directing his team around the field. Earlier, he had landed four penalty goals to keep Hawke's Bay in the game as Wellington threatened to run away.

They will now take a place in the Premiership next year while Wellington will face a second season in the Championship and that will be some compensation for losing the Ranfurly Shield to Waikato in the last challenge of the year.

It seemed Wellington had done enough to secure the win 26 minutes into the second half when wing Cory Jane got over for his second try. But there was no respite, they had to battle Hawke's Bay's determination not to be shut out. Wellington had led 20-6 just before the half-time break but Hawke's Bay had battled their way back to 20-19 by three minutes into the second half.

When Wellington second five-eighths Marvin Karawana was fed into a big gap the chance was created and Wellington used the chance to hammer for an advantage. Eventually after played had moved around in the Bay 22m area, the ball was cleared and wing Cory Jane was able to get over in the tackle for his second try, even if he was injured in the process and forced out of the game.

Unfortunately, for Wellington fullback Jackson Gordon-Bachop wasn't able to convert the try and only six points down, Hawke's Bay still sensed a chance for a win and there was no let-up in intensity.

Hawke's Bay refused to concede, and as they worked their way downfield, a lift in intensity with some fizz-bang provided by replacement back Billy Ropiha, and fullback Shannon Chase, created the chance which saw the ball moved across field, with West flinging a pass which missed three players before Ropiha fed Emerson who capped the chance perfectly.

Wellington had scored in the second minute, courtesy of quick hands, a nicely-timed in pass from centre Matt Proctor and good support play by halfback Frae Wilson who touched down.

Wellington were all action but the occasional lapse in discipline resulted in penalties conceded and West kept his side in the hunt with three first half penalty goals.

More attack from Wellington resulted in the ball being flung wide after the usual pick-and-goes were not able to produce the try. But having a player as experienced as Cory Jane on the end of the line meant the chance wasn't lost and in the 29th minute Wellington were out to a 20-6 lead.

But Wellington conceded penalties late in the half resulted in Hawke's Bay mounting two lineout penalties deep in Wellington territory. The second, saw the half-time hooter go but the Bay forwards kept looking for openings and again, with no way through the ball was released to the backs and big centre Robbie Fruean was the perfect player to bash the walls down and get the ball over the line.

With West landing another two points the half-time deficit was only 16-20.

No.8 Ardie Savea was electric for Wellington. He was involved in the first try with a set-up pass for Proctor while as the game advanced flanker Vaea Fifita started to rampage with the ball in hand. Lock Jeremy Thrush, playing his last game before heading overseas, was a kingpin in the lineout.

But Hawke's Bay were equal to their challenge with flanker Brendon O'Connor matching Savea's energy around the field, even if having to be more defensive in his approach while the faithful locking servants Mark Abbott and Michael Allardice were constantly looking to carry ball forward.

It was deserved reward for Hawke's Bay who were down on several key players out with injury and for their applied approach throughout the season.

Scorers: Hawke's Bay 26 (Robbie Fruean, Mason Emerson tries; Ihaia West, 2 con, 4 pen) Wellington 25 (Frae Wilson, Cory Jane 2 tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 16-20