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Mako win Hanmer Spring pre-season v Canterbury [Marlborough Weekly]

Pre-season in Hanmer Springs

Peter Jones [Marlborough App / Marlborough Weekly]

A last-gasp penalty kick saw the Tasman Mako score a 37-35 win over a powerful Canterbury line-up in their pre-season NPC match at Hanmer Springs this afternoon.

The result of the highly-entertaining fixture was in doubt until the final minute.

The Mako led by 15 at one stage but Canterbury fought back to hold a narrow 35-34 advantage with time nearly up on the clock.

Fortunately for Tasman they were able to claim their own kick-off and, following a succession of phases, Canterbury were penalised 40m out on the angle.

Replacement first five Campbell Parata stepped up and displayed nerves of steel to drive the ball between the uprights and seal victory over a traditionally-strong rival.

The Red and Blacks were stacked with class players, such as former All Blacks Cullen Grace, Mitch Drummond and Luke Romano, plus Super Rugby favourites Ollie Jager, Brodie McAlister, Josh McKay and Daniel Leinert-Brown.

The Cantabrians led 14-12 at half time, having dominated play early and late. McKay scored a try after 15 minutes, Grace touching down on the stoke of halftime.

However, in the middle of the first 40 the Mako were highly-competitive, tries to Jim Tavatavanawai and lock Max Hicks the result of some sustained phase play and co-ordinated lineout drives.

The Mako opened the second 40 with another unconverted Tavatavanawai try to lead 17-14, before their fourth try, to lock Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, which Parata converted, increased their advantage to 24-14.

An opportunist try to left winger Macca Springer saw the Mako move ahead 29-14 before Canterbury came back into the match, scoring three tries to reclaim the lead before Parata’s last minute heroics.

A late try to replacement hooker Leopino Maupese was also key to quelling the Red and Black revival.

Mako head coach Andrew Goodman said the match was a "really valuable" hit-out.

"We've been together for a week and half now so it was good to try out our structures again and give some of the lesser-experienced boys a taste of rugby at that level."

"Canterbury put a really strong team out so I thought the boys stood up really well."

He had praise for wingers Tavatavanawai and "exciting young talent" Springer, plus first five Willie Havili plus locks Hicks and Antonio Shalfoon.

Next up for the Mako is their final pre-season match, against Southland in Christchurch on Friday, July 30.

Goodman said the Mako Super players will return for that match, suggesting they are "full of energy and raring to get back into it".

"Some of the boys that played today have put their hand up for that first game [against Bay of Plenty in the NPC] which is awesome ... it means we have some pretty good conversations to be had around selection, which is what you want."