Mako remain unbeaten after holding off a gallant Waikato.
By Jonty Dine [Nelson Weekly]
For the second consecutive week the table topping Mako were trailing at half-time but came back to clinch a 35-26 victory in an entertaining encounter in Hamilton.
The Mako required a late try to veteran Wyatt Crockett to seal the win and remain favourites to claim a maiden premiership title.
Waikato were looking lethal early on with back to back tries to wing Bailyn Sullivan as they surged out to a 12-3 lead.
Hugh Roach struck back for the Mako through a trademark Tasman rolling maul, but Waikato went further ahead when Declan O’Donnell danced his way passed Tima Faingaanuku.
Tasman finally began to mount some offence and the pressure proved too much for the hosts as skipper David Havili strolled over untouched.
Fletcher Smith’s boot ensured the hosts took a handy eight-point buffer into the break.
Tasman reduced it to one with a superb breakout try as the ever-present Ethan Blackadder was on hand to finish off after Will Jordan split the moo-loo line wide open.
The Mako would then take the lead for the first-time courtesy of a 50m penalty from Havili.
Smith regained it before Jordan again broke the line and linked up with former All Black Crockett who showed enough speed in his experienced legs to get himself and his side over the line, spoiling a dream result in Dwayne Sweeney's 100th match for his province.
The win sees the Mako take a significant lead on the premiership table, 12 points clear of second placed Wellington who meet title holders Auckland tomorrow afternoon.
Next Friday sees the Mako host the defending champions at Trafalgar Park.
Tasman 35 (Hugh Roach, David Havili, Ethan Blackadder, Wyatt Crockett tries, Tim O’Malley 1 cons, 1 pen; D. Havili 2 cons, 1 pen) defeated Waikato 26 (Sullivan 2, O’Donnell tries; Sweeney cons, Smith 3 pens). HT: 23-15