Witness describes terror of team being chased, shot at after Hawke's Bay rugby match

A witness has described 15 minutes of terror being chased through the streets of Hastings and shot at after a rugby game was abandoned.

The referee stopped the match in the 65th minute on Saturday, after spectators with machetes invaded the pitch and refused to leave.

Then, a van with eight members of the visiting team inside was rammed and shot at while being pursued by up to four vehicles.

A season-opening third division game between home team Tamatea Arikinui and the visiting Young Maori Party, from Raupunga north of Napier, went without incident until a heavy tackle in the second half.

"There was an element on the sideline that was rather threatening. Weapons were displayed," club chairman William Culshaw told Newshub.

However, that was only the start of it.

As the team was leaving 20 minutes after the game, they noticed they were being followed.

"We noticed a car ran a red light to catch up to us and then a few seconds later a vehicle pulled out in front of us. A white truck tried to prevent us getting any further," Culshaw, who was driving, told Newshub.

Culshaw said they spent the next 15 minutes in survival mode, "during which time the van was shot at".

"We were sideswiped on one of the streets," he stressed.

He said at one stage there were "up to four vehicles in pursuit" and it only ended when they went back to the rugby grounds where they knew there was a heavy police presence.

"It did come as a surprise, especially when the back window nearly got blown in, and then we got rammed," he said. "There was a lot of advice coming from the backseat drivers."

Club chairman William Culshaw.
Club chairman William Culshaw. Photo credit: Newshub

Police told Newshub they are investigating what happened.

"We had a report of an incident where a firearm appears to have been discharged," Hawke's Bay Area Commander Inspector Lincoln Sycamore said on Sunday.

"These sorts of things rightly really upset our community. It's a real risk to the public," he said.

"However, we believe this incident is isolated to people that are known to each other."

Police say they're now looking at CCTV footage, and are following strong lines of inquiry.

"Whenever a firearm is discharged people are potentially at risk, there's no question of that at all," Insp Sycamore said.

"I don't believe there's any ongoing risk to the public."

The aftermath of the shooting.
The aftermath of the shooting. Photo credit: Newshub

Spectator Norma Jean Richards said police were swift to arrive.

"By the time we came back all the police officers were outside and everyone was just crowding and it was quite a shock."

Nicolas Richards said there's been a gradual rise in anti-social behaviour in a whanau-first neighbourhood.

"I feel like it's been a bit of a trend over the past few months. We've had two murders in our area over the last three to four months, bit of anti-social behaviour, motorbikes going around. We caught some kids lighting a fire in the park just a week ago," he said.

In a statement, Tamatea Club chairman Stewart Whyte refuted claims of gang links to the club, saying the incident involved gang members "who are not associated with Tamatea and are not members of our club".

However, police say they aren't ruling out gang involvement.

"It's a possibility that we're investigating for sure," Insp Sycamore said.

Newshub approached Hawke's Bay Rugby chief executive Jay Campbell who texted to say "to be honest this isn't a rugby issue this is a society issue".

"Just so happened the Mongrel Mob decided to watch a social rugby game."

Police say they're confident of making a prosecution.