Tasman got their Mitre 10 Cup season back on track with an important 25-20 win over Premiership rivals Taranaki on Saturday afternoon.
Centre Seta Tamanivalu’s return from All Black duty helped the visitors establish a 13-6 half-time lead with the only try of the half.
However, following a wealth of possession in the second half Tasman were able to quell early pressure and reduce the deficit to a 19-20 with a quarter of the match remaining.
Tasman regained the lead in the 67th minute through a Marty Banks penalty, and they held on from there to record their second consecutive win over Taranaki and their first home win against the Bulls since 2008.
The visitors were particularly dynamic in defence in the first half, flustering an aimless Tasman attack that dropped a significant number of attacking opportunities.
The hosts regained their composure, however, and capitalised on their possession to hold off a Bulls outfit whose accuracy and intensity evaded them as the match wore on. The difference was clear when promising halfback Finlay Christie was substituted early in the second half for the maturity and level-headed Billy Guyton.
The win from Leon MacDonald’s men lifted them to a two-win, one-loss record in 2016 and within a point of fourth-placed Auckland. With matches against Otago and Northland to come in the next two weeks, the Makos will be hoping to inch their way closer to a semi-final spot.
As for Taranaki, the bonus point they secured saw them level with Auckland and Canterbury on 10 points, though the latter has a game in hand.
It was a bizarre showing from both sides, with Taranaki showing glimpses of brilliance in the first half to leave Tasman flustered on attack.
Tamanivalu’s try looked to have given the visitors the impetus they needed to wrestle the attacking initiative, but the old adage of halftime being a momentum killer rang true.
The same certainly could not be said for Tasman, who were barely in the first half thanks to the boot of Marty Banks and they were lucky to head into the halftime break only down 6-13.
A poor Banks pass in the second half gave wing Beaudein Waaka an easy intercept try, and when Marty McKenzie converted the Bulls had an 20-12 lead with 30 minutes to play.
That sparked the Makos to life, and despite leaving it late, centre Kieron Fonotia’s try in the final quarter of the match reduced the deficit to a single point.
Banks kicked two further penalties, and despite their best efforts to turn the ball over from their set piece plays with full-time looming, they held on to claim an important win.
Hooker Andrew Makalio was impressive in attack, while his lineout throwing was excellent in a team-leading display. First five-eighths Marty Banks had an accurate day with the kicking tee with seven from seven, but his play under pressure was mixed. Guyton’s composure at halfback was also a key contribution to their victory.
Berny Hall and Iopu Iopu-Aso continued to show flashes of brilliance for the visitors, while the midfield combination between Sean Wainui and Tamanivalu could ignite the competition if the latter misses out on further All Black opportunities.
Tasman 25 (Kieron Fonotia try; Marty Banks con, 6 pen)
Taranaki 20 (Beaudein Waaka, Seta Tamanivalu tries; Marty McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen)