The Tasman Mako's season came to an end at Trafalgar Park tonight at the hands of defending champions Canterbury.
Tasman, who were twice reduced to 14 men in the second half, were unable to survive the late onslaught from the ruthless Cantabs who are through to the Mitre 10 Cup premiership final courtesy of a 21-16 victory.
BY JONTY DINE [Nelson App] AND PETER JONES [Marlborough App]
Canterbury opened its account after just two minutes through the boot of new All Black Brett Cameron who ran the ship superbly.
The Mako dominated early but looked frantic, errors continuing to plague their progress.
Tasman finally got on the board after half an hour, a high shot allowing Mitch Hunt to even the scoreline.
They took the lead soon after as skipper David Havili ran a beautiful line off Hunt to score the game's opening try.
That try swung momentum firmly in favor of the Mako, lock Pari Pari Parkinson immense with ball in hand, while Levi Aumua was proving a handful in the midfield.
Hunt stretched the advantage to 10 in the 39th minute, but the Mako handed the points straight back to Canterbury on the stroke of halftime, a Cameron penalty bringing the Red and Blacks closer at 13-6.
The defending champions came out firing in the second, Cameron immediately reducing Tasman's lead to four with his third penalty.
Hunt restored it to seven shortly after but Canterbury were looking more dangerous as Mike Curry was sent to the bin for killing the ball.
The errors began to creep back into the Mako game who were surviving the Canterbury onslaught by the skin of their teeth.
With a one-man advantage, Canterbury finally cracked the Mako defence in dubious fashion, captain Mitchell Drummond coasting over off the back of a scrum with would-be tackler Ethan Blackadder being impeded.
Referee Mike Fraser opted not to go upstairs and the scores were level at 16-all.
Another controversial call followed when Will Jordan was given an early shower when he failed to control an intercept attempt, leaving the Mako to play the final 10 down another man.
The pressure proved too much for the home side, Drummond breaking Mako hearts with his second try.
Cameron missed the extras to keep Tasman in the contest with four minutes remaining. However, Tasman couldn't overcome the Red and Black defence and head coach Leon MacDonald didn't get his fairytale finish in his final game at charge.
MacDonald said before the game that winning the big moments and discipline would be key to victory and was disappointed after the match that they fell down in those areas. "Two yellow cards would suggest that, absolutely. To beat Canterbury when you are down to 14 men is just not going to happen.
"That came on the back of a lot of pressure, the pressure we allowed then to put on us through poor exits ... we just weren't clinical enough against a team that is always clinical.
"I'm not sure why either, we have been pretty good in most of those areas this season but unfortunately not tonight."
Canterbury will meet the winner of tomorrow's other semi between Auckland and Wellington.
Scorers: Canterbury 21 (Drummond 2 tries, Cameron con, 3 pen) Tasman Mako 16 (Havili try, Hunt con, 3 pen).HT: 13-6 Mako. HT: 13-6.