Late try sees Tasman upset Canterbury

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 22:33 24/08/2012

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Little brother got one up on big brother tonight with a passionate Tasman upsetting Canterbury in the opening round of the national provincial rugby championship 25-22 in Nelson.

Up against a four-time championship winning side which boasted a plethora of stars, Tasman were given little chance against their Crusader bedfellows, but a determined desire left the Canterbury outfit hapless as they were taken apart.

Trailing for most of the match, the collective Canterbury faithful gave a massive sigh of relief when Johnny McNicholl crossed over with five minutes to go, but were then again left reeling when replacement player Kieron Fonotia barged his way over, after a charge down on full time, to give his Tasman side the win.

And they deserved every bit of it. Everything the Canterbury side threw at Tasman was met with a better answer, rushing defence on the star-studded backline shut things down.

They made costly errors at vital points in the match, and were guilty of allowing Tasman back into the game after they looked like getting the upper hand.

The result won't be the start new coach Tabai Matson will have been hoping for at the helm of the side.

He would have headed to the half-time break wondering what he got himself into after an awful opening stanza.

Injuries to Sean Maitland and Luke Katene early in the match certainly didn't help their cause, but even the loss of those two players couldn't fully account for the lacklustre Canterbury effort.

Three penalties from Tom Taylor were all they had to show for the first 40 minutes, while Tasman walked off the paddock with a try to Shane Christie, a penalty to Andrew Goodman and a drop goal to promising first-five Hayden Gripps.

Things looked slightly more promising in the second half, before a try to Tasman fullback Robbie Malneek  -from a good session of play  - put the home side back in front.

That was the lift the Tasman side needed and they began to hit every ruck with venom and found their opposition wanting and struggling to gain any continuity, which ultimately proved to be the winning of the match.

Coach Kieran Keane looks to have pulled all the right reins with his side this year with a number of players shouting to be taken notice of.

For Matson it's back to the drawing board and a quick turn-around before facing Auckland next Wednesday in Christchurch. Tasman will head into a Ranfurly Shield challenge in Taranaki brimming with confidence on the back of their win.

Result: Tasman 25 (Shane Christie, Robbie Malneek, Kieron Fonotia tries, Andrew Goodman  2 conv  1 pen; Hayden Cripps dropped goal) Canterbury 22 (Johnny McNicholl try, Tom Taylor 4 pen; Tyler Bleyendaal conv,  pen) HT: 11-9.

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- Fairfax Media

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