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Auckland pip Hawke's Bay in thriller

AAP logoAAP 7/09/2016

Auckland have avoided an upset NPC loss to Hawke's Bay in Napier, sneaking a 25-24 win following a dramatic finish.

Hawke's Bay first five-eighth Ihaia West had a chance to hand his team their first win over the season but missed a difficult penalty shot into a strong wind in injury time at McLean Park.

It leaves the home side marooned in last place in the Premiership division while Auckland's third successive win lifts them one point behind leaders Canterbury, who have played one less game.

It was a fortunate result for the northerners, who trailed for much of the game and were outplayed up front by the Hawke's Bay pack, particularly in the first half.

The hosts led 11-3 at halftime, boosted by a try to West when he charged down a clearance, and two penalties to the same player.

Auckland opposite Simon Hickey kept his side in the game with two penalties soon after the break but Hawke's Bay were 18-9 up with a quarter of the game remaining when impressive lock Mark Abbott bowled over for a converted try.

Auckland's best period followed, setting up tries to reserve hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate and centre Vince Aso.

With his team trailing 22-21, West slotted a penalty to put Hawke's Bay back in front in the 74th minute before Hickey followed suit two minutes later.

Hickey then missed another penalty attempt but was relieved when West did the same thing after the final hooter had sounded.

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