Crossover preview: Hawke’s Bay v Counties Manukau

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Saturday, September 1, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Sunday September 2, 2.05pm at McLean Park, Napier
Referee: Mike Fraser (Wellington)
Played: 54 (1956-2017)
Wins: Hawke’s Bay 29 Counties Manukau 24, Drawn 1
Last match: Counties Manukau 33 Hawke’s Bay 14 (September 17, 2017)


New Hawke’s Bay head coach Mark Ozich has swiftly got his men up to speed with his methods and now they face their first Premiership team brimming with confidence.

For some strange reason, McLean Park has not been a fortress for the Magpies in recent times, with just two wins in the last 10 here for Hawke’s Bay.

The Steelers will have to stop the home side at source, where the Magpies have scored a competition-leading six tries from set phases.

Five years ago the Steelers came to this ground and left celebrating the finest night in the union’s history, annexing the Ranfurly Shield.


Two Maori All Blacks hookers lock horns in Napier.

Ash Dixon lines up for his 85th game in Magpies colours, and the Hawke’s Bay skipper has already crossed the whitewash twice this season.

Joe Royal is in his second season with the Steelers, but has already proven a leader in the pack and has scored a try. His set-piece work has been solid, as has his general play.


Steelers coach Darryl Suasua knows his troops are not far away from their first victory, but they will need to lift in intensity and accuracy to bank the competition points.

“There were lots of good things we did against Taranaki with our scrum really strong and our scramble defence excellent,” he says.

“We need to be more accurate at attacking lineout and in the set-piece defence. I can’t fault their hard work and their heart. This week we will miss our captain, but I know all the team want to step up to do that little bit more and get over the line for him.”


This is the culmination of ‘Storm Week’ for the winless Counties Manukau Steelers, but falling to a second crossover defeat will not be part of the plans. If that transpired, it would pour the pressure on in the early fight to avoid relegation.

Hawke’s Bay look to have a new lease of life under Mark Ozich, and they have a potent backline, led by wing Mason Emerson, who has three tries in his last three games.

Watch for the Magpies 8-9-10 spine of Gareth Evans, Brad Weber and Tiaan Falcon to assert their authority.

The Steelers, conversely, will seek to get the ball into the hands of the rapid right wing, Toni Pulu, who scorched the earth midweek for his try against Taranaki. Cardiff Vaega wins a start at second five, while No 7 Caleb Fa’alili, something of a schoolboy star, will want to boss the breakdown.

Steelers skipper Sam Henwood is absent as he recovers from a midweek concussion, so Blues and Bombay club lock Matiaha Martin will assume the captain’s armband.

Hawke’s Bay:
JJ Taulagi, Jonah Lowe, Stacey Ili, Pasqualle Dunn, Mason Emerson, Tiaan Falcon, Brad Weber, Gareth Evans, Josh Kaifa, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Sam Ulufonua, Tom Parsons, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Mark Braidwood
Reserves: Ben Power, Joe Apikatoa, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Devan Flanders, Geoff Cridge, Folau Fakatava, Will Tremain, Sasa Tofilau

Counties Manukau: Luteru Laulala, Toni Pulu, Sam Furniss, Cardiff Vaega, Tevita Nabura, Latiume Fosita, Te Aihe Toma, Dan Hyatt, Caleb Fa’alili, Matt Vaai, Matiaha Martin (c), Viliame Rarasea, Kalolo Tuiloma, Joe Royal, Sean Bagshaw
Reserves: Gafatasi Su’a, Mark Royal, Coree Te Whata-Colley, Mike McKee, Sikeli Nabou, Liam Daniela, Orbyn Leger, Savelio Ropati