Taranaki reign supreme in Bunnings NPC

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Taranaki last held the title in 2014, winning the second-tier Championship under the old format in 2021. It was Hawke's Bay's first appearance in the premier final after they won the Championship in 2020.

Taranaki struck first when they ran a missed clearing kick back at Hawke's Bay through fullback Stephen Perofeta, who beat three tackles to set the home team up for some excellent continuity play in the visitors' 22m area that resulted in centre Meihana Grindlay crossing for a try 72 seconds after the start.

Ten minutes later, they built on the back of superb lunges toward the line from No8 Kaylum Boshier and flanker Pita Gus Sowakula before the ball was released from the forwards and moved on the blindside for second five-eighths Daniel Rona to score.

Wing Kini Naholo denied Hawke's Bay No8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u a try in the corner when tackling him and causing his foot to drift into touch.

Finally, after 21 phases, the ball was released from a ruck in Taranaki's goalmouth and fullback Lolagi Visinia burst through the defence to score.

Six minutes from halftime, another Hawke's Bay try was scored by lock Tom Parsons after they won a scrum in front of the posts and moved the ball to the line through six phases to score under the crossbar. First five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie's two conversions gave them a 14-12 lead, but just before the break, first five-eighths Josh Jacomb landed a penalty goal for Taranaki to turn leading 15-14.

Eight minutes into the second half, Jacomb took a gap and fed outside to Perofeta, who stepped inside a defender and passed to the supporting Rona, who then gave the ball to halfback Adam Lennox to score.

However, Hawke's Bay was not finished, and they assaulted the home line. And in the 54th-minute lock, Geoff Cridge was out in the backline to charge his way across the line to close the game up to 22-19.

Sensing their chance, Hawke's Bay again took the attack to Taranaki. But, close to the line, the ball was stripped and cleared downfield through Grindlay and Perofeta. In one final statement, an outstanding Taranaki scrum disintegrated the Hawke's Bay pack to win a penalty and seal the title.

Taranaki 22 (Meihana Grindlay, Daniel Rona, Adam Lennox tries; Josh Jacomb 2 con, pen) Hawke's Bay 19 (Lolagi Visinia, Tom Parsons, Geoff Cridge tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con). HT: 15-14

Leading points scorers:

Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke's Bay) 125

Fergus Burke (Canterbury) 109

Aidan Morgan (Wellington) 102

Zarn Sullivan (Auckland) 102

Leading try scorers:

Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Bay of Plenty) 9

Heremaia Murray (Northland) 8

Chase Tiatia (Hawke's Bay) 7

Losilosivale Filipo (Wellington) 7

Blair Murray (Canterbury) 7