Improved Bay fall just short against Harbour
North Harbour have kept their hopes of a home semifinal alive with a hard-fought 33-30 Mitre 10 Cup win over Hawke’s Bay in Albany on Friday.
With a top-two finish still within reach, Harbour were made to work for their points at QBE Stadium in a match that hand no shortage of excitement.
If the early moments were anything to go by, Hawke’s Bay were in for a long night. However, a well-worked move from a lineout saw hooker Ash Dixon get the first try of the match. Ihaia West added the extras and the Bay took a 7-3 lead after nine minutes.
Their lead lasted all of 10 minutes when, after a sustained period of pressure saw Hawke’s Bay concede a number of penalties close to their line, loose forward Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a crashed over from the back of a scrum.
The referee opted to award a penalty try as Hawke’s Bay collapsed the scrum.
Both sides looked to play some creative running rugby, but both added penalties before Hawke’s Bay again found the lead though winger Cardiff Vaega, who finished out wide after Dixon broke the line to get his side close.
The match settled down a touch following the try as Hawke’s Bay took firm control of the proceedings to lead by four points at the break.
Looking to remain in the hunt for a home semifinal, Harbour stepped their game up again after the break and were first to score after a brilliant individual effort by fullback Shaun Stevenson.
Bryn Gatland added the extras and from there Harbour took the upper hand - until prop Jason Long crashed over to put Hawke’s Bay back in front.
Looking for just their second win of the season, Hawke’s Bay soon found themselves a man up when a late tackle earned Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a 10 minutes in the sin bin. West knocked over the ensuing penalty and the Bay took a seven point lead with 18 minutes to play.
The visitors had a one-man advantage, but poor defence saw North Harbour winger Matt Duffie waltz through their line and run about 30m to score under the posts. Gatland converted and it was game on.
Both sides kicked penalties for the scores to be locked at 30-all with three minutes to play and a short kick from Harbour worked to perfection as they regained possessions and earned a penalty for a Hawke’s Bay player having his hands in the ruck.
From right in front of the posts, Gatland stepped up and secured the decisive three points to close out the win. (Penalty try, Shaun Stevenson, Matt Duffie tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con, 4 pen) (Ash Dixon, Cardiff Vaega, Jason Long tries; Ihaia West 3 con, 3 pen).
Hawke’s Bay’s Brad Weber delivers the ball to his backline.