Tasman too strong for Hawke's Bay
Tasman held off a tough Hawkes Bay challenge to win their top-of-the-table NPC Championship clash 18-9 at Nelson's Trafalgar Park today.
It was the perfect celebration for Tasman hooker Quentin MacDonald's 50th outing for the province, Tasman eventually outscoring the visitors two tries to none while also significantly denying them a bonus point.
Tasman controlled the early possession battling into a stiff northerly, but it was Hawke's Bay who opened the scoring with a 10th minute penalty to first five-eighth Ihia West.
Tasman adopted the very obvious tactic of continuing to run the ball into the wind with wingers Bryce Heem and James Lowe and midfielder Tom Marshall all testing Hawke's Bay's defence with strong runs. But with the wind providing significant assistance, Hawke's Bay managed to keep Tasman pinned well inside their half.
Hawke's Bay halfback Chris Eaton and Tasman lock Alex Ainley added more spice to the contest when both were yellow-carded for fighting in the 26th minute, West landing the resulting penalty for a 6-0 lead.
Excellent Hawke's Bay defence continued to deny Tasman's ball-in-hand tactics until Tasman's persistence finally paid off when captain and flanker Shane Christie drove over from a well-controlled attacking lineout to score the game's opening try just three minutes before the break.
Behind 6-5 at halftime, Tasman took their first lead at 8-6 when Marshall landed a penalty directly after the restart. It lasted just 11 minutes, with West's third penalty restoring Hawkes Bay's lead at 9-8.
With Tasman struggling to get their hands on the ball, Hawke's Bay applied plenty of early pressure into the wind.
But Tasman finally set the home crowd alight when a superb run by lock Joe Wheeler, including a cheeky dummy, saw him kick the ball ahead with No 8 Liam Squire winning the race to the ball. Substitute halfback Billy Guyton landed the conversion for a 15-9 lead.
A Guyton penalty three minutes later stretched the lead to 18-9 as Tasman held on for a deserved win.
Tasman 18 (Shane Christie, Liam Squire tries, Tom Marshall pen, Billy Guyton pen, con) Hawke's Bay 9 (Ihaia West 3 pens) Ht 5-6.
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