Magpies crowned Kings of the Championship

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Off the back of a sizzling second spell, a brilliant display by halfback Folau Fakatava and some irresistible support play and offloading, the Magpies beat a brave Northland Taniwha 36-24 at Napier’s McLean Park.

 

It may be enough for the Ranfurly Shield holders to win promotion to the Premiership, depending on the 2021 format of the Mitre 10 Cup.

 

For the Taniwha, in their first national final since their 1997 NPC second division triumph, there will be disappointment, but they threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the home side in the first half, which was tied 17-all at oranges.

 

In all, there were 10 tries scored in a worthy final. A beautiful Napier sunset drew the curtain on a fine Championship campaign by the top qualifiers Hawke’s Bay.

 

While Northland scored first via prop Luatangi Li, the Magpies hit back with the first of a double to wing Jonah Lowe. It was nip and tuck in a frenetic opening stanza which lacked rhythm but not action.

 

Taniwha blindside flanker Tom Robinson, set on his way by wing Jone Macilai, galloped away for a try, though he later limped off with a leg injury. The Magpies, however, proved impossible to contain as the match wore on.

 

Second five Neria Fomai added his second try, while inspirational captain Ash Dixon crossed for his ninth of the season. They had two further tries rubbed out by the TMO, which might have blown out the scoreline.

 

Northland No 12 Tamati Tua did score a late consolation try, but the Taniwha had to bow to the undisputed best side in the Championship.

 

Hawke’s Bay 36 (Jonah Lowe 2, Neria Fomai 2, Lolagi Visinia, Ash Dixon tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, Caleb Makene con) Northland 24 (Luatangi Li, Will Grant, Tom Robinson, Tamati Tua tries; Dan Hawkins con, Johnny Cooper con) HT: 17-17


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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.