Hawke's Bay ended their ITM Cup campaign with a flourish as they beat Counties Manukau 31-28 thanks to a late try by Gillies Kaka.
Hawke's Bay ended their ITM Cup campaign with a flourish as they beat Counties Manukau 31-28 thanks to a late try by Gillies Kaka in Pukekohe.
Kaka touched down four minutes from time to deny the Steelers a well-deserved win in the final round robin match of the ITM Cup at Bayers Growers Stadium.
Counties trailed 15-24 at half-time but outscored their opponents by thirteen points to lead 28-24 until the 76th minute.
A total of six tries were scored in the first 17 minutes alone as both sides opted to run the ball back at every opportunity.
Converted tries to fly-half Kahn Fotuali'i and lock Bryn Evans gave Hawke's Bay the lead at 14-5 before full-back Tim Nanai-Williams combined with winger Sherwin Stowers to punch through the Hawke's Bay defence.
An unconverted try by DJ Forbes put Counties back in front but this was shortlived as hardworking Hawke's Bay blindside flanker Michael Johnson dotted down for Mark Jackman to get his third conversion and then add a penalty just before the break.
Nanai-Williams was instrumental in resurrecting his team's fortunes in the second, kicking two penalties and a conversion and setting up his side's second-half try with a chip for wing Ahsee Tuala to score with.
Another Nanai-Williams penalty meant Hawke's Bay needed a try to snatch victory and Kaka did the honours beating James Semple, Cummins and Siale Piutau to dot down the match-winner.
The result sees Hawke's Bay finish eighth, Counties ninth and Northland tenth in the championship ahead of North Harbour, Tasman, Manawatu and Otago.
For Counties Manukau :
Tries: Lee, Nanai-Williams, Forbes, Tuala
Pens: Nanai-Williams 2
For Hawke's Bay:
Tries: Fotuali'i, Evans, Johnson, Kaka
Cons: Jackman 3, Kirkpatrick