Tasman clinch final in thrilling finish
Tasman hold on to win by single pointWAYNE MARTIN
Ihaia West has created many magic moments for Hawke's Bay this season, but the talented No 10 couldn't deliver at the death in tonight's ITM Cup championship rugby final against Tasman in Nelson.
With substitute halfback Chris Eaton scoring a brilliant end to end try at the death to reduce Tasman's lead to just 26-25, West couldn't land the difficult sideline conversion as Tasman held on for a thrilling win.
Hawke's Bay were valiant in defeat, dominating much of the contest, although Tasman's resilience was undeniable as they claimed their first championship title.
Hawke's Bay opened the scoring in spectacular fashion after just three minutes when fullback Zac Guildford finished off a slick break by No 10 Ihaia West to cross beside the posts for a shock 7-0 lead.
But it didn't take long for Tasman to respond, winger Bryce Heem capping off a lengthy buildup and some superb continuity to open the home team's account, Marty Banks' conversion levelling the scores after 12 minutes. A West penalty quickly had Hawke's Bay back in front at 10-7.
A confident Hawke's Bay side looked full of running, creating plenty of early pressure on Tasman's defence as their backs continued to penetrate. Hawke's Bay's back three of Guildford and wingers, Penikolo Latu and Telusa Veainu, were constant threats, however, a Banks penalty midway through the half again levelled the scores at 10-all, largely against the run of play.
Despite Hawke's Bay's dominance of both territory and possession, Banks eventually put Tasman in front with a 50m penalty.
Then Tasman blew the game wide open as two tries within three minutes to No 8 Liam Squire and a stunning 90m intercept by Banks with Hawke's Bay threatening to score in the corner, suddenly pushed Tasman out to a flattering 23-10 lead at halftime.
Squire's try, crossing wide on the right wing following a quick throw inside Hawke's Bay's quarter, pushed the big No 8 to seven for the season and a new individual try-scoring record for the province.
Hawke's Bay continued their territorial dominance after the restart as Tasman were forced to desperately defend their line. But the pressure eventually told when flanker Brendon O'Connor was given space out wide to score their second try midway through the half and reduce the margin to 23-17.
With 10 minutes to play, a 45m Banks penalty pushed Tasman out to 26-17, but West replied three minutes later to get Hawke's Bay back within seven points.
It set up a thrilling finale as Hawke's Bay threw everything at an equally determined Tasman defence, Eaton scoring the game's final try to put all the heat on West, whose conversion went in front of the posts.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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