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Mako hammer Stags to return to top of Premiership ladder

Tasman have returned to the top of the Premiership standings and picked up some silverware after thrashing Southland in their NPC crossover clash in Blenheim on Sunday.

The defending champions bounced back from their first defeat of the season against Waikato last weekend by coasting to a 51-14 victory at Lansdowne Park, which saw them claim the Clarke Dermody Cup, which was on the line for the first time between the two sides.

The seven-try, bonus-point win puts the Mako one point ahead of the Mooloos on the ladder, and they will head into next week hoping to add to their bulging trophy cabinet, with a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay coming on Saturday.

Regan Ware goes in for the last of Tasman’s seven tries in their big win over Southland in Blenheim.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Regan Ware goes in for the last of Tasman’s seven tries in their big win over Southland in Blenheim.

And their confidence will be well and truly restored after an outstanding first half saw Tasman surge to a commanding 39-7 lead against a winless Stags side who were a shadow of the one which gallantly pushed Canterbury to golden point last weekend.

The visitors were a mess at both scrum and lineout time, and were forced into a ton of defending, and Tasman, with a handy breeze at their backs, needed no second invitation to hut them, racing to a 19-0 lead after just a dozen minutes. And from there the writing was inked on the wall.

Winger Timoci Tavatavanawai and centre Leicester Fainga'anuku bagged two tries apiece, while second five-eighth Levi Aumua also got on the scoresheet in a powerful display in midfield.

The Stags set the tone by coughing up soon after the kickoff and Tavatavanawai had his double in the space of six minutes in the right corner.

And if that wasn’t bad enough for the visitors, just three minutes later they were under their sticks for a third time, as left winger Macca Springer took his turn in the action, leaping for a great take of a Mitch Hunt bomb to race away.

Tasman had to wait a whole 10 minutes for their next score, but when the dangerous Fainga'anuku picked up from the base of a ruck on the Stags line and athletically spun his way over, the hosts duly had their bonus point bagged.

Clarke Dermody poses with the Clarke Dermody Cup which was up for grabs for the first time between Tasman and Southland.
CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOSPORT
Clarke Dermody poses with the Clarke Dermody Cup which was up for grabs for the first time between Tasman and Southland.

With that sealed, the home side kept the scoreboard ticking with two penalty goals, either side of Southland finally getting on the board in the 29th minute.

That came courtesy of some inspiration from first-five Marty Banks, who plucked an intercept and raced 55 metres, which also brought up 1000 points for him in New Zealand first-class footy, in what was his 101st game.

But Tasman would go on to have the final say of the half, with the hulking Aumua producing a stunning strip on a man of equal size in prop Greg Pleasants-Tate, and stormed 25 metres to the line.

Staring down the barrel some 32 points down, Southland turned with the wind after a rark-up from their coaches, with assistant James Wilson frankly admitting they wanted to see them restore pride in the maroon jersey.

Marty Banks’s try saw him bring up 1000 points in New Zealand first-class rugby.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Marty Banks’s try saw him bring up 1000 points in New Zealand first-class rugby.

They went the right way about it when Solomon Alaimalo produced a fine finish just three minutes into the second spell, but it would prove their only bright spot, in a half where they spent much of the time camped in their 22m.

After a 25-minute try ‘drought’, thanks to a few errors creeping in, Fainga'anuku opened the Mako’s second-half account, crashing over from 10 metres in the 62nd minute, then later played provider, with a long ball to Max Hicks, who offloaded for All Blacks Sevens flyer Regan Ware to surge over on Tasman debut and raise the half century.

AT A GLANCE

Tasman 51 (Timoci Tavatavanawai 2, Leicester Fainga'anuku 2, Macca Springer, Levi Aumua, Regan Ware tries; Mitch Hunt 5 con, 2 pen) v Southland 14 (Marty Banks, Solomon Alaimalo tries; Banks 2 con) HT: 39-7.

Stuff MVP points: Timoci Tavatavanawai 3, Levi Aumua 2, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta 1.