Mako win tense Mitre 10 Cup Final against Auckland
By David Long [Stuff]
Tasman have claimed back-to-back Mitre 10 Cup Premiership titles, defeating Auckland 13-12 at Eden Park.
For the most part, it was a tense, but fairly dull final. More fitting to one in a Rugby World Cup, than for the New Zealand provincial title, where expansive rugby is supposed to be the way of doing things.
Both teams hadn’t been in stunning form leading into the final and both were error-prone in this game. The lineouts for Auckland and Tasman were a mess and rarely were either teams’ outside backs put into space to attack.
FIONA GOODALL/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman's Mark Telea fights his way through a tackle from Tumua Manu.
Auckland did have the more dominant scrum, but struggled to make the most of it.
There was a crowd of 13,131 for the final – well below the 22,000 who came to Eden Park two years ago when Auckland played Canterbury in the final, a game that was also free entry for spectators.
But unlike last time, the All Blacks weren’t playing soon after and Tasman aren’t as big a drawcard as Canterbury.
Still, despite only two stands being open, there was a good atmosphere in what can be a cavernous Eden Park.
FIONA GOODALL/GETTY IMAGES
Auckland's James Lay braces himself for a tackle.
In a final it’s all about accumulating points, so it was no surprise when Auckland captain Angus Ta’avao instructed Harry Plummer to kick a penalty just inside the Tasman half in the third minute.
Twelve minutes later Niko Jones went in for a tackle Tasman first-five Mitchell Hunt. Jones wrapped his arms around Hunt, but their heads collided, with the Mako coming off the worse and needing to go off in a medicab for an HIA, which he failed.
In the 17th minute, David Havili levelled the scores from a penalty kick by the Auckland 10m line.
On the half-hour mark Plummer goaled his second penalty and three minutes before the break his team-mate Zarn Sullivan landed a monster kick from close to the halfway line, out on the left, to make it 9-3.
For the dying moments of the first half Tasman attacked the Auckland goal line and after a second penalty was conceded Ta’avao was sent to the bin.
Tasman continued to press hard and were eventually rewarded with a try to hooker Quentin MacDonald.
Auckland continued to build their scores in threes when Plummer kicked another penalty four minutes into the second half, while soon after Tasman centre Fetuli Paea came close to scoring, but was just forced out by the combined efforts of Jonathan Ruru and Plummer.
In the 48th minute, just as Ta’avao was about to rejoin the game, Sullivan was shown yellow for an intentional knock on and took his skipper’s place in the naughty chair.
However, Tasman failed to score again while Auckland extended their time being down a man and it wasn’t until the 70th minute that David Havili put Tasman back in front, from another penalty.
It was a nail-biting end to the game, with Auckland desperate to overturn their one-point deficit. Their first try of the night would be good, but at this stage of the game, the drop goal became a good option.
With three minutes to go, Simon Hickey went for the latter, but the kick went to the right.
Auckland got the ball back, but the game was over when Salesi Rayasi was penalised for holding on to the ball after being tackled.
AT A GLANCE
Tasman 13 (Quentin MacDonald try; David Havili 2 pens, con) defeated Auckland 12 (Harry Plummer 3 pens, Zarn Sullivan pen). HT: 10-9