Talk about putting the smiles back on the faces of flood-ravaged Napier residents.
The Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team certainly did that with their 59-23 demolition job on Taranaki in their Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal at Napier's McLean Park tonight. The victory came 12 days after severe flooding which left more than 100 Napier homes uninhabitable and less than a week after the Magpies pipped Taranaki 34-33 in their 10th round clash in Inglewood.
Cheered on by a crowd of 10,246 thanks to a free entry initiative, the top qualifying Magpies outscored Taranaki eight tries to three, with some sensational rugby. But as has been the case so often this season hat-trick hero and player-of-the-match, captain and hooker Ash Dixon, promised there was more to come from his troops.
This must be a scary thought for the Northland Taniwha who will travel to Napier for Friday night's final after their 32-19 win against Otago last night.
"I'm pretty happy that we have given ourselves another Monday which which was the main thing. But the back end of the game was very average. We gave away penalties and lost a lot of momentum. We need to check that," Dixon said afterwards.
"These guys are getting better and better," Dixon added pointing to his troops.
Taranaki captain and lock Mitchell Brown agreed his lads were in the hunt for the first quarter and the visitors scrum was dominant throughout the match.
"It was still disappointing. We didn't get the rub of the green from the referee and we wanted more from our team. We will have to do better next year," Brown said.
Magpies halfback Folau Fakatava (scoring below) was close behind Dixon in the battle for player-of-the-match honours. He was superb yet again and his 52nd minute try came after a 72 metre solo run.
Lock Geoff Cridge had his best game of the season. Like Dixon, prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, again enhanced his chances of New Zealand Maori selection on Monday.
He ran like a back to win the chase to the ball for his 32nd minute try after a clever kick from centre Stacey Ili. Substitute first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie did well to slot all eight of his attempts at goal as the Magpies scored their most points ever in a finals match.
The post-match stats back up Dixon's suggestion of the need for improvement. His troops only had 42 per cent of possession and 46 per cent of the territory. They also missed 22 tackles but made 432 metres on the carry.
Brown had a massive workrate for Taranaki. First five-eighth Stephen Perofeta had some memorable patches and fullback Jayson Potroz was full of endeavour.
Heartstopper: Television match official Mark Johnson's call to deny Magpies lock Tom Parsons his 10th minute try. It was a fair call as he was held up. Fortunately the Magpies went on to score eight tries which counted.
Turning point: When Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon scored the first of his three tries in the 36th minute to give the hosts a 28-11 lead at halftime. Taranaki were never going to recover.
Player of the match: Dixon. Super leadership and with a hattrick to boot. But only just ahead of halfback Folau Fakatava followed by lock Geoff Cridge and replacement first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie.
Hawke's Bay 59 (Ash Dixon 3, Solomone Funaki, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Geoff Cridge, Folau Fakatava, Connor McLeod tries; Lincoln McClutchie 7, Caleb Makene cons; McClutchie pen), Taranaki 23 (Lukas Halls, Ricky Riccitelli, Donald Brighouse tries; Jayson Potroz 2 pens, con). HT:28-11.