10 Oct 2015

Waikato steal the Shield from Hawkes Bay

11:39 am on 10 October 2015

Waikato have beaten Hawke's Bay 36-30 in Napier to win the Ranfurly Shield, and avoid relegation from provincial rugby's Premiership.

Waikato celebrate their Ranfurly Shield win over Hawkes Bay.

Waikato celebrate their Ranfurly Shield win over Hawkes Bay. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Waikato halfback and captain Brad Weber was the star with a hat-trick of tries as the visitors ended Hawke's Bay's Shield reign on their 12th defence and last of the season.

It's a heartbreaking loss for the Magpies, who only had to beat the Mooloo men to retain the Shield for another year.

The victory over the Magpies also ensures Manawatu will drop straight back down to the Championship after just one season, as they can't now overtake second-last-placed Waikato on the ladder.

Both sides grabbed two tries each before half-time at McLean Park, with the visitors opening the scoring in just the fourth minute through second-five Anton Lienert-Brown.

Front rower Ash Dixon replied for the hosts, with the hooker's try going unconverted - but it was enough for an 8-7 lead.

However, Hawke's Bay would trail 17-15 at the break, after a tough yellow card to wing Zac Guildford.

The former All Black was harshly adjudged to have illegally lifted Waikato first-five Damian McKenzie in a tackle.

Waikato didn't notch their second try until Guildford returned from the sin-bin though - but what a try it was.

The unlikely scorer was Highlanders prop Josh Hohneck with an impressive evasive run, darting to the line with a move any back would be proud of.

McKenzie slotted the conversion for a 17-8 lead.

But it was the Magpies who finished the half stronger through flanker Brendon O'Connor, who got on the end of a lineout maul after the 38-minute mark to bring it back to within two points, once Ihaia West converted.

Waikato extended their lead to 24-15 on 50 minutes when a length-of-the-field try to Weber was awarded after a video review, the final pass floating forward but leaving the hands backwards, and it was rightly given - despite the boos from the home crowd.

Another West penalty got the margin down to six points but Weber would all but seal the deal with his second try in the 69th minute, following a lineout drive. McKenzie couldn't convert but that was 29-18 and looked to be game over.

Weber then scored his third try soon after, off a centre kick following some lovely back play from Waikato off another lineout. McKenzie added the points from almost in front as the score seemed to blow right out.

It wasn't over yet in this Shield thriller though.

Fullback Lewis Marshall grabbed a late try for Hawke's Bay right under the posts after replacement Waikato prop Ben Tameifuna was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle.

West converted it quickly with a drop kick - and O'Connor got his second try just after the 80-minute mark to give the faithful some hope, as there was somehow still time for the restart.

But it proved to be just too late by then, the Magpies ultimately coming up short, despite mounting a desperate final charge.