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Leicester Fainga’anuku powers Tasman into Final against Auckland

Leicester Fainga'anuku powers Tasman into Final against Auckland

By Paul Cully [Stuff]

A powerhouse display from monster wing Leicester Fainga’anuku has given Tasman the chance to defend their Mitre 10 Cup Premiership title against Auckland next weekend.

In a tense, tough 19-10 win against Bay of Plenty in Nelson on Saturday, Fainga’anuku's ability to plough through defenders gave the Mako a narrow but decisive edge.

Tasman No 11 Leicester Fainga'anuku scores in the corner in Nelson on Saturday.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman No 11 Leicester Fainga'anuku scores in the corner in Nelson on Saturday.

With their scrum under pressure throughout against a well-drilled Steamers pack, it was left to Fainga’anuku to give them much-needed go-forward.

The 109kg left wing scattered defenders with almost every carry and grabbed a first-half try to underline his importance to the home side.

He also showed his growing ability under the high ball and his duel against Auckland weapon Salesi Rayasi next weekend will be a beauty.

Fainga’anuku’s dominance nudged Tasman into a 13-7 halftime lead and they held their composure in the second half to get the job done.

Two Mitch Hunt penalties pushed them out to a 19-10 lead and they were happy to play a territorial game in the face of some committed Steamers defence that robbed them of attacking fluidity.

But it was a slog, particularly at scrum time, Bay of Plenty had their chances grab the victory themselves in the final 15 minutes.

The Mako also had to play with 14 men for 10 minutes after No 7 Sione Havili was shown a yellow card just before halftime.

Tasman lock Quinten Strange takes the ball up against Bay of Plenty in Nelson on Saturday.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman lock Quinten Strange takes the ball up against Bay of Plenty in Nelson on Saturday.

On a fine Nelson evening, Tasman dominated the beginning of the contest but it took them 22 minutes to register their first try.

Flanker Hugh Renton – who was the best forward on the paddock – soared high to claim lineout ball and the Mako's powerful drive did the rest to send veteran hooker Quentin MacDonald over line.

That would have pleased co-coach Clarke Dermody, whose work with the Highlanders’ drive was evident throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa.

It took only a few minute for Tasman to extend the lead as Fainga’anuku finished a nice team move in the left-hand corner.

David Havili was also an influential presence at fullback, providing that mix of composure and incisiveness that the All Blacks have been searching for this year.

Bay of Plenty's Joe Webber scores his 8th try of the campaign against Tasman at Trafalgar Park.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Bay of Plenty's Joe Webber scores his 8th try of the campaign against Tasman at Trafalgar Park.

After a brilliant run of recent form, the Steamers were a touch flat and made too many handling errors to build any real pressure, limiting the ability of exciting fullback Kaleb Trask to influence the game.

However, their scrum was functioning well and they were given a lifeline by poor Tasman discipline.

Following a series of Mako infringements close to their own line, in-form No 7 Havili was sent to the sin bin in the 36th minute for refusing to release the tackled player.

Wing Joe Webber immediately exploited the one-man advantage with a strong finish to drag the visitors back into the game, with Trask adding the extras to make the halftime score 13-7 to the Mako.

That set up a tense second half but the Mako did just enough to earn themselves a place in the final against Auckland, who beat them 31-10 at Eden Park last month.

Tasman 19 (Quentin MacDonald, Leicester Fainga’anuku tries, Mitch Hunt 3 pens) defeated Bay of Plenty 10 (Joe Webber try, Kaleb Trask con, Otere Black pen). HT: 13-7

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