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Hawke's Bay crash to third NPC defeat

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/09/2016

Hawke's Bay’s Billy Rophia is rounded up in a Counties Manukau tackle. © SNPA/Ross Setford Hawke's Bay’s Billy Rophia is rounded up in a Counties Manukau tackle. Hawke's Bay's miserable return to the NPC Premiership has continued with a limp 48-20 loss to Counties Manukau in Napier.

The home side crashed to a third successive loss in an unwanted start to their campaign on Thursday, having been promoted from the second-tier Championship last season.

They leaked five tries to two against a Counties Manukau side who made less errors and were more proficient at the breakdown, marshalled expertly by halfback Augustine Pulu.

First five-eighth Piers Francis kicked 23 points, including four penalties in a stop-start second half after they led 22-13 at the break.

Outstanding flanker Jordan Taufua powered over for his second try with 10 minutes remaining to ensure the northerners would notch a second victory from three games.

A bonus point means Counties Manukau sit atop the Premiership although they may well be passed by the end of the round.

Hawke's Bay are last, having conceded a competition-worst 139 points.

Their opening try at McLean Park was scored by wing Robbie Fruean, returning from injury for his first game in nearly a year, while fullback Ryan Tongia kept the hosts in the hunt with their second midway through the second spell.

Pulu set up fullback Luteru Laulala for free-wheeling Counties Manukau's opening try to put them 10-0 ahead while other tryscorers were centre Sam Vaka and reserve wing Sione Fifita.

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