Andrew Goodman couldn't have scripted it much better.
A four-try bonus point win would have been nice, but when you've just chalked up your 50th game for your province, any success adds unmistakable lustre to an outstanding individual achievement.
Goodman led the Tasman Makos to crucial 17-3 ITM Cup rugby win over Bay of Plenty at Trafalgar Park last night to finally end the team's frustrating three-match losing streak.
And it was a game of distinct contrasts, Tasman producing their trademark expansive attacking approach in the first half before hunkering down in the second to absorb constant pressure from an increasingly desperate Bay of Plenty team now contemplating the reality of relegation from the premiership.
There was relief, obvious emotion and genuine satisfaction for Goodman after a spirited win in which Tasman's attacking and defensive skills were given a thorough workout.
Tasman led 17-3 at the break after fullback Tom Marshall, with wing Peter Betham and powerful No 8 Jordan Taufua both featuring in the buildup, and hooker Quentin MacDonald had both scored first-half tries. Marshall also added a penalty and two conversions to a solitary penalty success by Bay of Plenty fullback Nick McCashin. Then Tasman held on in a scoreless second half as they finally delivered Goodman the result he deserved.
Bay of Plenty let Tasman off the hook a couple of times as spilled passes by both McCashin, with the line open, and later by wing Lance MacDonald provided the home team with some unexpected relief.
But mostly, it was about Tasman finally getting hearts and heads in synch and grinding out a memorable win for one of the province's most respected servants.
Goodman certainly revelled in the moment.
"It was awesome," he said. "It took a bit of ticker in that second half to defend like we did and it's been one of our work-ons, so I'm really proud of the boys.
"They had some dangerous runners like [wing Lelia] Masaga who broke the line, but there was always desperation in that second line to make sure we got them down. It's a big turning point for our season really, so hopefully this gives us a bit of kickstart into Counties [Manukau], who are going to be a bloody tough game."
Then it was time for Goodman to appreciate the significance of his milestone.
"I'm feeling the 50 games, mate, it's been a pretty tight season," he joked. "But I'm loving every minute of it, especially [achieving it] here at Trafalgar Park was very special for me. The boys left me out at the start there for a while and I nearly shed a tear myself, so I had to suck it in there and think of the game, but I'm pretty stoked."
Tasman coach Kieran Keane said the team played for their skipper last night.
"We played for Goody, it was all about Goody today and he's been an inspiration," said an emotional Keane.
"He's a good bastard . . . and the boys wouldn't have wanted to show any disrespect towards him. That was a simple motivating factor and a very worthwhile one and the boys backed their captain, so I'm absolutely thrilled about it."
In terms of Tasman's performance, Keane was also delighted with his team's defensive resolve and their determination to keep Bay of Plenty tryless.
"It wasn't pretty was it, but the defence was just markedly improved. It was a team thing, it was a focus all week and hats off to them because they learned a couple of harsh lessons in recent games past.
"It's nice when you can identify something and the boys take it on board and do what they did today.
"I don't care if it was pretty or not. They had to show their mettle and that's what they did.
"The head and the heart, combine the two, and when one doesn't control the other and they work together, they're pretty hard to beat."
Marshall, wing Betham and Robbie Malneek and No 10 Hayden Cripps posed general attacking threats during the first half, with locks Riki Hoeata and Filipo Levi, Taufua and MacDonald tenacious up front.
Flanker Tevita Koloamatangi also appeared to have come of age with a mature display, with everyone contributing to the team's aggressive and controlled second half defensive display.
"Those four [championship] points are absolutely crucial, more in terms of belief," Keane said.
"In not too distant days gone by we've dropped a few of those pressure games - and let's not forget, it's Bay of Plenty, a premiership side and we only went down by one point to Waikato, the new Ranfurly Shield holders. So you've got to admire these fellows.
"They played with a lot of pride and with a little bit of finesse too."
Tasman 17 (Tom Marshall, Quentin MacDonald tries, Marshall pen, 2 cons) Bay of Plenty 3 (Nick McCashin pen) Ht 17-3
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