Tasman prop Siua Halanukonuka stole a 23-16 ITM Cup win over Waikato for his side right on the full-time buzzer in Nelson.
Twenty phases were strung together in a succession of powerful surges at the line by the home side who showed some of the patience they lacked earlier in the game.
The scores were locked at 16-16 in the final quarter after Waikato had come back from 3-16 down.
Intent was demonstrated by both sides as they moved the ball around in calm conditions at Trafalgar Park in an entertaining game. Waikato surprised the home team by dominating position for much of the game.
Tasman didn’t help themselves by some untidy play around rucks and mauls and by making unnecessary passes under pressure.
Fullback Robbie Malneek made an immediate impact running into the line at speed in the third minutes to step off both feet and creating a chance in the corner for the first try which was converted by first five-eighths Marty Banks.
It proved the only try for the home team in the first half, and it was Waikato who dominated the field position reaching a 62 percent advantage in the first half and they went close to scoring on three occasions. Prop Josh Hohneck, wing Declan O’Donnell, who couldn’t hold the ball over the line, and halfback Brad Webber was just short after an O’Donnell inspired breakout.
Veteran flanker Marty Holah was in the thick of the action but found his Tasman counterparts more united with No.8 Liam Squire and flanker Shane Christie setting a superb defensive standard for their side.
First five-eighths Damian McKenzie continued to demonstrate his exciting skills, several times making key breaks to initiate thrusts that fully tested the home defences.
And it was McKenzie who moved the ball in the Waikato 22m area, after Malneek had missed the chance for a second try, just losing the ball on the line following a lineout steal in their own 22m area. A penalty was tapped by Waikato prop Loni Uhila. He charged down field and found Brad Webber in support and he fed O’Donnell who was grounded short but was able to roll and place the ball over the line.
McKenzie added the conversion and then moments later capped an O’Donnell breakout with a penalty goal to pull the score back to 13-16 after 52 minutes.
Waikato continued to apply most of the pressure as the third quarter ended with McKenzie’s penalty goal levelling the scores.
Home captain Shane Christie acknowledged the luck in the win while his Waikato opposite Brad Webber said it sucked to lose in that manner.
Tasman 23 (Robbie Malneek, Siua Halanukonuka tries; Marty Banks 2 con, 3 pen) Waikato 16 (Declan O’Donnell try; Damian McKenzie con, 3 pen). HT: 16-3