Tasman Makos into Championship final
Tasman withstood a dogged Southland challenge to book themselves a place in next weekend's NPC Championship rugby final after an enthralling 49-28 win in Blenheim today.
Tasman will host either Otago or Hawkes Bay at Trafalgar Park in the season-decider after outscoring the Stags by six tries to four in an action-packed contest which kept the Lansdowne Park crowd thoroughly entertained.
Tasman eventually atoned for a host of early errors when flanker Tevita Koloamatangi charged down a kick inside his own half and retrieved the ball for a 60m sprint to the line after 16 minutes. Marty Banks' conversion and a 52m penalty extended the Makos' lead to 10-0.
Tasman appeared to go further ahead when good hands down the left flank sent winger Mitchell Scott in beside the posts. However, advice from the TMO saw referee Kane McBride instead award a penalty to Southland near halfway.
Another Tasman handling error after 24 minutes eventually saw No 10 Scott Eade pounce on the loose ball and scamper between the posts as the Makos' lead was suddenly cut to 10-7.
Tasman No 8 Liam Squire then got in on the action, using his impressive strength in a strong sideline break to score Tasman's second try.
It was also his sixth of the season, equalling the provincial season record shared by former Makos wingers Peter Playford and Peter Betham and current player James Lowe.
With Tasman continuing to create chances, an offload by fullback Lowe to Scott near halfway just before the break saw the winger break clear for their third try and a comfortable 30-7 halftime lead.
Southland made a statement shortly after the restart when two tries within 15 minutes, the first to winger Bryan Milne burst clean through from an attacking lineout, and the second to No 8 Elliott Dixon following pressure on Tasman's line suddenly cut the deficit to just 30-21.
But Tasman redeemed themselves shortly afterwards when winger Bryce Heem scored in the corner, retrieving the ball after it had been knocked out his hands, for a 35-21 lead.
A try to substitute fullback Robbie Malneek, after retrieving a clever chip kick by centre Kieron Fonotia, stretched Tasman's margin to 21 points.
But Southland wouldn't lie down, a try to winger Keanu Kahukura again giving them hope at 42-28.
Banks finally made it safe for Tasman though, chasing a Mark Swanepoel kick ahead to score their sixth try and an unbeatable 49-28 lead with seven minutes remaining as they eventually cruised to victory.
Tasman 49 (Tevita Koloamatangi, Liam Squire, Mitchell Scott, Bryce Heem, Robbie Malneek, Marty Banks tries, Marty Banks 5 cons, 3 pens) Southland 28 (Scott Eade, Bryan Milne, Elliott Dixon, Keanu Kahukura tries, Eade 4 cons) Ht 30-7
- © Fairfax NZ News