Waikato stamina puts paid to Hawke's Bay

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Thursday, September 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Having only won the Shield off Taranaki on Sunday, Waikato were mindful of avoiding the Shield's shortest tenure, but the attitude demonstrated on the field meant that statistic was never an issue.

Hawke's Bay, who also conceded their lead in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship to Waikato, were in the hunt for three-quarters of the game, and while No.8 Gareth Evans was able to provide the inspiration for his side. But Waikato responded with patience to see off the challengers' inevitable enthusiasm.

Then, when they needed to they lifted the momentum, especially when punishing Hawke's Bay's mistakes, of which there were too many, to make their challenge relevant.

When prop Ben May threw an unnecessary pass on Waikato's 22m line on the 60-minute mark, the ball was quickly turned over for second five-eighths and captain Dwayne Sweeney and danger man wing Sevu Reece cut a merry chase downfield and from a goal-line ruck it was replacement Murray Iti who scored.

They followed that with a basic blindside move which saw Waikato halfback Jack Stratton, who was outstanding all night, feed the ball to first five-eighths Fletcher Smith for the try. And then replacement halfback Raniera Takarangi completed another breakout to score.

Hawke's Bay knew they had to attack if they were to have any chance of lifting the Shield, and that made the early running when halfback Brad Weber demonstrated his class on the break when getting into space after fine midfield thrusts by centre Stacey Ili, blindside flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u and second five-eighths Pasqualle Dunn. Weber stepped two defenders to go in beside the posts.

However, silly mistakes cost Hawke's Bay dearly. Dunn twice made dangerous tip tackles in the first 10 minutes and was sin-binned.

Waikato then did what Waikato teams have done for years by looking to their forwards. And they did the job in time honoured fashion with drives at the line before in the 18th minute from a five-metre scrum, No.8 Jordan Manihera took the ball from the base and fed halfback Jack Stratton and he timed his pass perfectly for second five-eighths and skipper Dwayne Sweeney to go in under the posts.

A long throw by Waikato to a lineout was picked off by wing Sevu Reece running in the midfield and he cut through the defence with sheer speed to score a superb fifth try this season.

In the 32nd minute Mikaele-Tu'u was observed by referee Nick Briant to have his mouthguard in his sock rather than his mouth. He was penalised and Waikato kicked for touch and set up a ruck which saw first five-eighths Fletcher Smith fling a long ball to Reece. He raced down the sideline before throwing a hail Mary pass inside where the ever-present Manihera picked up the ball to score.

Hawke's Bay demonstrated they weren't going to bow down when from the restart they won a penalty and kicked to the corner where lock Michael Allardice secured the ball to set up a driving maul out of which fellow lock Tom Parsons appeared to score.

But that proved a false dawn as they were unable to regain the same input in the second half and they only managed a consolation try at the end to Sasa Tofilau.

Duane Monkey Medal Points:

3 Quinn Tupaea
2 Sevu Reece
1 Adam Burn

Scorers: Waikato 42 (Dwayne Sweeney, Sevu Reece, Jordan Manihera, Murray Iti, Fletcher Smith, Raniera Takarangi tries; Smith 6 con) Hawke's Bay 22 (Brad Weber, Tom Parsons, Sasa Tofilau tries; Jamie-Jerry Taulagi 2 con; Tiaan Falcon pen). HT: 21-15