Weber's hat-trick seals Ranfurly Shield for Waikato
Friday, October 9, 2015 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
It is doubtful there has been a younger side to have claimed the iconic trophy as they made light of their disappointing season to suggest a significant tenure could be on the cards, while also shifting out of the relegation zone from the ITM Cup Premiership by virtue of their win.
Weber scored the tries but his five-eighths Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown were outstanding as were fullback Shaun Stevenson and wing Jordan Trainor, all of them in the earliest stages of their rugby careers.
Add lock James Tucker, prop Josh Hohneck, whose own try represented the skill factor available to the side, while loose forwards Adam Burn, Mitch Jacobson and No.8 Josh Tyrell battled outstandingly with Bay loosemen Brendon O'Connor, Tomy Lamborn and Trent Boswell-Wakefield.
The game was thrilling throughout and typical of matches where the Shield changes hands but the speed of the Waikato side told in the end.
McKenzie struck early when speeding through a gap. He linked with his outsides and Lienert-Brown scored the first try.
Ihaia West's break eventually provided the impetus for hooker Ash Dixon's 18th minute try.
Hawke's Bay suffered a setback when wing Zac Guildford was deemed to have lifted McKenzie beyond the horizontal before dropping him and he was sent to the sin-bin. McKenzie added a penalty goal to reclaim a 10-8 lead.
Stevenson's 34th minute break was extended by McKenzie and from the ruck the ball was moved left and the unlikely figure of Hohneck received the ball just out from the goalposts and he stepped the defence, beat another tackle and crossed for a fine try.
Hawke's Bay made an immediate response and they opted for a penalty kick to the corner and it was skipper O'Conner who scored from the maul just on the half-time break.
Waikato came out full of intent and sped the game up and launched a strong assault at the line. In the first six minutes of the second half Hawke's Bay had to make 26 tackles to two by Waikato, mostly as they defended their line from a prolonged series of pick-and-goes.
Lock James Tucker got closest when taking the ball but found halfback Chris Eaton, who was celebrating his 100th game for Hawke's Bay wrapped around him and the ball. At the resulting five-metre scrum, the Bay pack went into over-drive to clear the line while also gaining a penalty.
Hawke's Bay went on their own form of attack but when centre Richard Buckman went to ground in a tackle the ball emerged out the side of the ruck and Tucker grabbed it. The ball was moved by Waikato on their own line. Right wing Trainor chipped ahead, regathered the ball and fed Lienert-Brown. He then threw a netball-type pass to Weber and he hared the last 30m to score and with McKenzie's conversion the lead was 24-15.
It was thrill-a-minute stuff from both sides. West reduced the gap with a penalty goal, and second five-eighths Andrew Horrell looked to have created a chance but his pass wasn't held by Eaton and Waikato recovered.
McKenzie put in a long kick downfield and while replacement wing Shannon Chase covered, he had to kick the ball out in the 22m area. Waikato won the lineout, set up a maul and it was Weber who charged into space, fended off wing Robbie Fruean and stretched out to score in Eaton's tackle.
Fullback Lewis Marshall and O'Connor scored in the dying moments but it was all too late to deny Waikato their deserved success.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 30 (Ash Dixon, Brendon O'Connor 2, Lewis Marshall tries; Ihaia West 2 con 2 pen) Waikato 36 (Anton Lienert-Brown, Josh Hohneck, Brad Weber 3 tries; Damian McKenzie 4 con, pen). HT: 15-17
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