Hawke's Bay's inspirational skipper Ash Dixon was the star of a 59-23 hammering of Taranaki today, cementing a place in the championship finals against Northland next week.
The barnstorming hooker scored three of his side's seven tries in a season topping performance.
Dixon's first try came late in the first half, crossing the line on the back of a strong Hawke's Bay maul.
His second was another front-rower favourite, scoring off a pick and go just a meter away from the Taranaki line.
The third try however featured a bit more flare.
Bringing the ball out from deep in their own half, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u carved through several Taranaki defenders before finding Folau Fakatava with a smooth switch pass as the Magpies stormed up the field.
Dixon running in support was the next to get a hold of the ball, backing himself to beat Taranaki's scrambling defense and sealing his hat-trick.
Fakatava was another standout for Hawke's Bay, consistently looking threatening from the breakdown and scrum time, eventually scoring a try of his own in a spectacular 70-meter dash.
Both Dixon and Fakatava went to the bench together receiving rapturous applause from the McLean Park crowd.
On top of nabbing a finals spot, Dixon's season as skipper has been nothing short of impressive, leading Hawke's Bay to a Ranfurly Shield victory and a number of successful shield defenses, securing the Log O' Wood for the summer.