The Manawatu Turbos will play in the top flight in 2015, with the team defeating Hawke’s Bay 32-24 to claim the ITM Cup Championship, which means they will essentially swap places with Wellington next season in the Premiership.
FMG Stadium was bustling with an amazing atmosphere.
The bucket heads were out in force at the match kicked off, just after the national anthem while there was still light out in a perfect Palmerston North sky as the Championship decider began.
The opening ten minutes suggested plenty of movement from both teams with the ball, but it was a classical ‘cut and thrust’ period where both finalists struggled to put an early mark on the game.
Otere Black kicked the match’s first points in the 11th minute, and Manawatu were beginning to gain some ascendency, before the Magpies and Ihaia West exploded into action.
West scored a striking individual try where the first five-eighth displayed his full array of tricks, before scooting half the field to begin a period of Hawke’s Bay supremacy.
After converting his own try, the number ten would miss a penalty but his left wing would amend for this moments later.
Shannan Chase would score when the Magpies stacked their offence to the left flanks, and after the team combined well, the exciting speedster would skip around the defence to score.
Rob Foreman, playing his 100th provincial match, would leave the field in the first half, and the departure of the stalwart seemed to galvanise the home outfit.
Black would knock over a penalty to close the gap, while Manawatu’s forwards began to gain ascendency as the opening half closed with Hawke’s Bay leading 14-6.
The Magpies would come out hard early in the second half, but Kayne Hammington’s try, with the left flanks again ripe for the offence a couple of minutes into the final stanza, would start a Turbos revival.
Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder crossed ten minutes later with a scorcher of a try, and the long range attack, again seeing Manawatu spreading the ball across the team, saw the 15 hit the ball fast and allowed Manawatu to take the lead.
The Turbos would be denied by the TMO, and then Hawke’s Bay would strike back with Chase scoring his second after Robbie Fruean – who had a strong game – combining with Matt Berquist to score.
West would convert, but tries to Jason Emery and Nathan Tudreu in the last five minutes would give Manawatu their first New Zealand domestic title in 34 years.
Tries: Hammington, Milner-Skudder, Emery, N Tudreu
Cons: Black (2), Rure
Pens: Black (2)
Hawke’s Bay 24
Tries: West, Chase (2)
Cons: West (3)