Waikato safe, but Hawke's Bay slip down

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Saturday, October 8, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Too slow to settle, too fragile on defence and too brittle when it came to their bench, Hawke's Bay had to bow to Waikato's superiority, especially in the final quarter when the home bench restored the side's scrummaging fortunes that Hawke's Bay were unable to capitalise on earlier.

It was as if when Waikato No.8 Whetu Douglas got away with a forward pass inside to fullback Jordon Trainor and raced away to link with supporting wing Ilieas Ratuva, the home decided it was going to be their night.

Hawke's Bay did try to ensure it wasn't all one-way traffic, courtesy of their own scrum, and the power of centre Robbie Fruean, but too many mistakes, most self-inflicted, meant they couldn't make any impression on the scoreboard.

Weaknesses in defence also allowed the harder running Waikato men to make inroads and that was what happened when centre Willis Halaholo scored the second try 26 minutes into the game.

Waikato had twice played lineouts in the corner after penalty kicks and from the second some cohesion in support saw the ruck taken to the line and when the ball was released, first five-eighths Sam Christie attempted to run to the line but slipped and from the ruck the ball was moved Halaholo who capitalised between the posts.

More driving play after some more good running by Douglas, who was powerful all night on the run, and halfback Pele Cowley who had a superb night sniping for effective breaks, led to another ruck on the line where prop Tau Koloamatangi picked up and drove over for the try to set up a 27-3 advantage at half-time.

But luck turned for Hawke's Bay four minutes into the second half. It started when Trainor had a try ruled out after another strong run by Cowley. Waikato got a maul going in the Hawke's Bay 22m but superb work by lock Mark Abbott secured the ball and it was cleared downfield to touch.

Waikato took a quick throw-in and Trainor looked to kick downfield only to have his kick charged down by lock Geoff Cridge. The ball was kicked ahead by second five-eighths Tiaan Falcon. Trainor came back to try and secure the ball but couldn't control it and it was kicked over the line.

There appeared little doubt that Cridge would have scored before Trainor could recover, but Cridge was held back by second five-eighths Tevita Taufui and a penalty try was awarded with Taufui sin-binned for his efforts.

Hawke's Bay's good work was undone when Waikato lock Brian Alainu'uese picked up untidy ball nicely to feed to Trainor running into the line at speed and able to slip his way over for a try which he converted.

However, a penalty in the Waikato 22m area resulted in an uncontested lineout drive where Cridge was holding the ball and backing his way to the line where he slipped the ball to flanker Tony Lamborn who scored in the 57th minute.

Five minutes later, West unleashed another grubber kick on the blindside where replacement wing Shannon Chase had better luck than Fruean did earlier in front of the Waikato goalposts. Chase quickly passed inside where wing Mason Emerson was supporting to run away for the try.

Hawke's Bay hearts must have been in mouths when a pass between Trainor and Ratuva back on their 10m line went undetected before Ratuva's long run downfield to link with No.8 Whetu Douglas who crossed for a try.

However, referee Brent Pickerill asked for the TMO to have a look and he didn't even wait for his decision when seeing the initial pass was forward.

Ratuva struck back in the 69th minute after a short pass from Douglas to Halaholo and a long pass allowed Ratuva to slide in to seal the deal. There was still time for replacement five-eighths Jason Robertson to get over a few minutes from the end.

Scorers: Waikato 46 (Iliease Ratuva 2, Willis Halaholo, Tau Koloamatangi, Jordan Trainor, Jason Robertson tries; Trainor 5 con, 2 pen) Hawke's Bay 22 (Penalty try, Tony Lamborn, Mason Emerson tries, Ihaia West 2 con, pen). HT: 27-3

To view all stats for the Mitre10 Cup season click here