Hawke's Bay winger Zac Guildford took centre stage again as the Magpies cruised to an impressive 54-8 win over Counties-Manukau on Thursday.
Hawke's Bay winger Zac Guildford took centre stage again for his team as the Magpies cruised to an impressive 54-8 Air New Zealand Cup win over Counties-Manukau in Napier on Thursday.
After another quality performance in the number eleven jersey, the Crusaders-bound star must surely have one foot on the plane for the All Blacks' end-of-year tour.
Of the seven tries scored by the Magpies, Guildford touched down for three of them in front of his home crowd – lifting his season's tally to twelve. The Steelers could only cross the whitewash once thanks to mobile prop Simon Lemalu.
Hawke's Bay led just 13-8 at half-time and took well into the second half to get on top of bottom-placed Counties-Manukau, who more than held their own for 50 minutes.
The Steelers provided the highlight of the first half when Lemalu scored a try after sloppy passing among the home side's backs gifted a turnover.
Lemalu picked up the spoils himself and put through a grubber kick which sat up nicely for flanker DJ Forbes before Lemalu followed up to accept the final pass to cross the line.
That cancelled out an earlier try to Hawke's Bay prop Faka'anaua Taumalolo following a series of pick-and-goes by his forwards.
Hawke's Bay received a boost early in the second half when number eight Thomas Waldrom scored a try after catching Counties-Manukau unawares when he took a quick tap from a free kick.
Magpies pivot Mathew Berquist maintained his 100 per cent goal-kicking record with the conversion then added a penalty to stretch his side's advantage out to 23-8 with 30 minutes remaining.
Waldrom accounted for their third try, too, being driven over the line after a line-out drive as Hawke's Bay turned to their forwards to gain the control lacking earlier.
Opportunities then began presenting themselves as the match opened up, and Hawke's Bay quickly added further tries to captain Jason Shoemark and Guildford as Counties-Manukau fell off the pace.
All of Guildford's tries came in a 10-minute burst and the best was his last when he stepped three defenders from a standing start.
The bonus-point result consolidated their second placing, leaving them to win one of their remaining two games, at home against Canterbury and away to lowly Northland, to confirm a play-offs berth.
For Hawke's Bay:
Tries: Guildford 3, Waldrom 2, Taumalolo, Shoemark
Cons: Berquist 5
Pens: Berquist 3
Hawke's Bay: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Mark Jackman, 13 Jason Shoemark (c), 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 George Naoupu, 5 Ross Kennedy, 4 Michael Johnson, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Faka'anaua Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Josh Keys, 18 Matt Egan, 19 Adam Bradey, 20 Dane Shelford, 21 Richard Buckman, 22 Nick Thompson
Counties-Manukau: 15 Nanai-Williams, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Dean Cummins, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Josh Hall, 9 Samisoni Fisilau/Notise Tauafao, 8 Waka Setetaia, 7 Mark Selwyn, 6 DJ Forbes, 5 Rees Logan, 4 Jamie Chipman, 3 Tuaefe Palelei, 2 Matt Holloway, 1 Simon Lemalu.
Replacements: 16 Ilaisa Ma'asi, 17 Graham Dewes, 18 Alepini Olosoni, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Tauafao/August Pulu, 21 Ahsee Tuala, 22 Jason Roache.
Referee: Matthew Stanish