Tasman can look forward to the possibility of a home ITM Cup championship final after beating premiership strugglers Taranaki 27-20 in New Plymouth.
Even without a host of first choice players, Tasman proved too good, thanks mainly to the boot of halfback Billy Guyton who kicked five penalties and a conversion after both sides scored two tries.
The win gives Tasman a seven point buffer over second placed Hawke's Bay with just one round robin match left.
The first half gave a clear example why Tasman are regarded as one of the most exciting teams in the ITM Cup and why Taranaki are regarded as one of the worst in 2013.
Tasman showed far more enthusiasm, looked better on attack and were far more desperate on defence.
They easily deserved their 21-6 lead at the break as they hurried Taranaki at the breakdown, forcing plenty of turnovers, while their line was barely threatened.
Tries to Joe Wheerler and Mitchell Scott were both examples of Tasman being more urgent and it was easy to see why Taranaki had scored just 10 tries in eight matches heading into today.
When Taranaki did have the ball they simply threw it from side to side, usually behind the advantage line, before it was either turned over or lost with a knock on and forward pass.
Tasman coach Kieran Keane would have been delighted that he could rest so many key players and still be under little pressure from the home side.
On the evidence of the first half it would be an injustice if Tasman were not a premiership side next year because Taranaki looked far from one.
Taranaki No 8 Blade Thomson was the exception and looked to be trying his hardest, as was fullback Kurt Baker, but it was ugly from the rest of the players.
Things did improve for Taranaki in the second half, especially after Seta Tamanivalu scored his first try of the season.
It at least appeared to spark the energy levels for the home side, while Tasman looked to be tiring.
Still, an inability to finish things off appeared to be Taranaki's undoing, especially after a Baker try was disallowed by the television match official, until Andre Taylor scored to make it 24-20 with about eight minutes left.
Taranaki's cause was not helped by them getting on the wrong side of rookie referee Grant Stuart who penalised them at a rate of more than two to one.A late Guyton penalty made sure Tasman could at least not lose the match as they enjoyed a seven point gap with only a couple of minutes left. Tasman now warm up for their championship semifinal with a match against Manawatu, while Taranaki travel to Hamilton to lay Waikato in a meaningless match after Bay Of Plenty were relegated from the premiership on Saturday. TASMAN (Joe Wheeler, Mitchell Scott tries; Billy Guyton 5 pens, con) TARANAKI (Seta Tamanivalu, Andre Taylor tries; Taylor 2 pens, 2 cons). Ht: 21-6.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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