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Tasman beat Otago 26-20 to secure home semifinal

Tasman beat Otago to secure home semi-final

By Paul Cully [Stuff]

Tasman No 12 Tim O'Malley scores against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.
JOE ALLISON/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman No 12 Tim O'Malley scores against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.

Tasman have harnessed the power of their scrum and big wing Leicester Fainga’anuku to muscle their way to a 26-20 win against Otago.

It was rarely pretty but the Mako won't care: on a weekend of almost endless Mitre 10 Cup permutations the victory guarantees a home semi-final for the defending Premiership champions.

Fainga’anuku bounced off defenders every time he carried the ball – including Otago No 8 Nasi Manu - and when lock Quinten Strange powered over from close range midway through the second half it gave the visitors a handy 26-13 lead and guaranteed they would take some momentum into the finals.

Jona Nareki set up a try to Kayne Hammington with five minutes to go, but Otago will still limp into a home final against Northland or Taranaki next week on the back of two losses, following a heavy defeat to Southland last weekend.

Otago No 10 Josh Ioane struggled to spark their attack, and Otago are clearly missing the injured Liam Coltman and Josh Dickson.

Their defence stood up well and the lineout maul had some good moments, while form Otago wing Freedom Vahaakolo again showed his finishing prowess, grabbing the first try of the game in the 10th minute.

Otago’s attack was a bit clunky in getting the ball to Vahaakolo but he only needed a bit of space to cause the damage, accelerating past Tasman halfback Finlay Christie with ease on the way to the line in the right-hand corner.

Sio Tomkinson makes a break for Otago against Tasman on Saturday.
JOE ALLISON/GETTY IMAGES
Sio Tomkinson makes a break for Otago against Tasman on Saturday.

It was Vahaakolo’s seventh try of his debut season and a Super Rugby contract looks like a distinct possibility for the 23-year-old when the squads are announced in early December.

However, Tasman were all over the Otago scrum and veteran loosehead Jamie Mackintosh had a tough afternoon before being hooked inside the hour mark.

For Tasman, Fainga’anuku, Sione Havili and Fetuli Paea were strong with the ball in hand, while David Havili chipped in with some smart touches at fullback.

Tasman midfielder Fetuli Paea looks for his support at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
JOE ALLISON/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman midfielder Fetuli Paea looks for his support at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

After taking a 13-10 lead into halftime, Tasman moved up a gear in the 20 minutes after halftime, and Strange's try was no more than they deserved.

It came on the back of another strong scrum and a series of powerful carries from both backs and forwards.

Fainga’anuku was a genuine handful all afternoon and Mako No 10 Mitch Hunt was determined to give him as much ball as possible, either from wide passes or crossfield kicks.

Tasman had started unconvincingly and trailed after Vahaakolo's smart finish, but they managed to put together a nice attack after 20 minutes, with Havili and Mark Telea combining well to set up a try for No 12 Tim O’Malley.

Ioane tied the scores with a penalty before Manu and Ryan Coxon sparked a brief brawl after Coxon dropped a shoulder on the Otago loose forward as he was attempting to charge down a kick.

Tasman finished the half strongly as Fainga’anuku, Sione Havili and Fetuli Paea started to make metres with ball in hand, and a Mitch Hunt penalty before the buzzer sent them into the break with a 13-10 lead.

The Mako then took the contest away from Otago in the third quarter of the game, even though they had to withstand a nervous finish after their clumsy attempts to close down the game kept the home side in it until the final whistle.

Tasman 26 (Tim O’Malley, Quinten Strange tries, Mitch Hunt 2 con, 4 pen) defeated Otago 20 (Freedom Vahaakolo, Kayne Hammington tries try, Josh Ioane con, 2 pen). HT: 13-10

MVP Points: Leicester Fainga’anuku 3, Sione Havili 2, Quinten Strange 1