Mako go back to back
By Jonty Dine [Nelson Weekly / Nelson App]
Tasman are back-to-back Mitre 10 Cup premiership champions after edging out Auckland in a thriller at Eden Park tonight.
The Mako won a ferocious, stop-start contest 13-12, having to defend for all they were worth in the final stages as the home side threw everything into attack.
But hold on they did to earn a famous win, backing up their 2019 clean sweep.
This triumph though was harder earned, the Mako having to deal with a string of high-profile defections in the off season, plus the loss of home advantage.
They also lost playmaker Mitch Hunt to injury in the early stages of the premiership decider.
However, as they have done so often recently, Tasman found the resilience and fighting spirit to find the way to victory.
At half time Tasman led 10-9, Auckland landed their fourth penalty to take a 12-10 lead before skipper David Havili stepped up to land an angled penalty, clinching the deal with 10 minutes to go.
Auckland opened the scoring through a long-range Harry Plummer penalty.
The Mako were dealt a cruel blow just 15 minutes in, losing Hunt to a nasty head knock, however Havili took over the goal kicking duties and levelled the scores.
Plummer reclaimed it for the hosts before fullback Zarn Sullivan struck one from 50 out to put his side six ahead.
However, another twist soon followed as Auckland captain Angus Ta’avao was sent to the bin as Tasman hammered away in the final minutes of the half.
The defending champions didn’t take long to cash in on the one-man advantage, scoring in trademark style after the siren.
Quinten MacDonald dotted down from a lineout drive as the Mako took the lead for the first time in the game.
Fetuli Paea was denied a try in the corner as the Mako came out of the sheds firing.
The drama continued as just before Ta’avau was set to re-enter the fray, Sullivan replaced him in the bin after a deliberate knockdown.
Both sides were putting in some monstrous hits as the Mako started to click with ball in hand.
Leicester Fainga’anuku was again a huge presence on the left wing, but it would be remiss to single out any particular Mako players from a team of heroes.
Scorers: Tasman 13 (Quentin MacDonald try, David Havili 1 con, 2 pen) defeated Auckland 12 (Harry Plummer 3 pen, Zarn Sullivan 1 pen)