The Tasman Makos made an impressive start to life as premiership rugby newcomers with a commanding 35-15 bonus-point win over Hawke's Bay in Blenheim today.
After beating Hawke's Bay in last year's championship final, Tasman had expected a close tussle against a formidable-looking Bay lineup. But it was Tasman that made most of the running in an open and entertaining contest.
Tasman stunned Hawkes Bay in the opening minute when No 8 Liam Squire punched through near Hawke's Bay's quarter following a turnover and in-passing to lock Joe Wheeler for the opening try and a 7-0 lead.
Penalties by opposing No 10s, Tasman's Marty Grant and Hawke's Bay's Ihaia West, stretched Tasman out to a 16-3 lead after 28 minutes, Tasman missing a golden opportunity to score their second try when centre Kieron Fonotia spilled an in-pass from hooker Quentin MacDonald just 10 metres from Hawkes' Bay's line.
Tasman's defensive line-speed kept a threatening Hawke's Bay backline in check for much of the first half as the Makos created most of the attacking opportunities. Several half breaks and good ball continuity kept the pressure on the Hawke's Bay defence before Tasman finally seized their chance when winger Bryce Heem crossed in the corner after a lengthy build up for an impressive 23-3 halftime lead.
The home side's set phase precision was clearly evident during the first half as a dominant scrum and reliable lineout helped to negate a physical Hawke's Bay forward unit.
Tasman made an excellent start to the second half, second five-eighth Tom Marshall scampering in after 10 minutes for a 30-3 lead, before a Robbie Fruean intercept from 20m out finally gave Hawke's Bay their first try.
Rookie substitute centre David Havili had the crowd in raptures with a clever try - and Tasman's try-scoring bonus - leaping in at the corner as the Makos began to seriously distance themselves at 35-10.
A charged down clearing kick presented Hawke's Bay captain and flanker Brendon O'Connor with space out wide for his side's second try but that was as close as they got with Tasman eventually sealing a
Squire, flanker Shane Christie both made outstanding contributions in the loose for Tasman with Wheeler and locking partner Alex Ainley solid in the tight.
Hawkes Bay wingers Mikey Vuicakau and Ryan Tongia looked dangerous with limited opportunities although Tasman's backs threatened consistently with Marty Banks, Marshall, James Lowe and Heem all in good attacking form.
Tasman Makos 35 (Joe Wheeler, Bryce Heem, Tom Marshall, David Havili tries, Marty Banks 3 pens, 3 cons) Hawkes Bay 15 (Robbie Fruean, Brendon O'Connor tries, Ihaia West pen, con) HT 23-3.
- The Nelson Mail
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