Tasman forwards give Wellington a wet weather rugby clinic in capital
By Mark Geenty [Stuff]
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES
Mitch Hunt of Tasman has team-mates in close attendance against Wellington.
You would expect Wellington to be the masters of wet weather rugby, with a northerly gale thrown into the mix.
Instead it was Tasman, the defending Mitre 10 Cup premiership champions, who gave their hosts a lesson in trying conditions at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua, north of Wellington, on Saturday.
In the battle of second versus fourth, and a replay of last year’s decider, the Mako outmuscled their hosts and played a lot smarter in winning 19-3 to remain on track for another home semifinal.
Tasman scored two tries to none, both from rolling mauls, as the Lions never got into the game in a poor show for those who braved the conditions in the capital’s first NPC match played away from Athletic Park or Sky Stadium.
Wellington must now reset for a big one next Sunday when they challenge Hawke’s Bay for the Ranfurly Shield and try to keep their own home playoff hopes intact.
There were many stars in the red forward pack, with hooker Andrew Makalio, veteran lock Alex Ainley and flanker Sione Havili among their best.
The scrum provided the most alarming difference between the sides as Makalio and props Isaac Salmon and Isi Tuungafasi - brother of All Black Ofa - led a demolition of their hosts’ fresh-faced tight five.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES
Leicester Faingaanuku of Tasman and Wellington captain James Blackwell meet head-on.
With the howling northerly at their backs, Tasman led 11-0 at halftime and looked every bit the defending champions.
Their scrum shunted the Lions at will; they disrupted Wellington’s lineout on a tough day for throwers, and their fast, muscular defence permitted their hosts minimal excursions into their half. Again it was a sluggish start for Wellington, now a trademark of theirs.
Openside flanker Havili was the dominant figure of the first half. He was strong over the ball and forced turnovers as Wellington tried to rumble the ball up, then were sent back into their own 22m.
Havili scored the only try of the half, too, when a Tasman rolling maul bulldozed its way across.
Lock Quinten Strange was a notable returnee, four weeks after tearing a ligament in his ankle while in camp with the All Blacks, and got an early souvenir with a nasty gash to his left cheek. A collision with Lions fullback Ruben Love after 10 minutes saw blood flow and required heavy bandaging, but Strange continued.
One defensive kick from halfback Connor Collins summed up Wellington’s woes as it flew 20m backwards towards their own line.
Then with the wind at their backs Wellington had to emerge firing and for a while they did, mounting some promising attacks, but the defence held.
Ill discipline crept in as frustration built for Wellington, with central Billy Proctor penalised for a late tackle on Mitch Hunt who controlled things well for Tasman.
Then as the Lions looked try-bound, No 8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas was pinged for a clean out on Finlay Christie when the halfback was lifted above the horizontal. In the 64th minute, Wellington remained scoreless and there was little to offer after that.
Jackson Garden-Bachop opened their account with a penalty with 13 minutes left but Tasman, with some more hungry forwards rumbling off the bench, sensed victory as one more powerful shove saw blindside flanker Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta plunge over. Game over.
AT A GLANCE
Tasman 19 (Sione Havili, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta tries; Mitch Hunt 3 pen) defeated Wellington 3 (Jackson Garden-Bachop pen). HT: 11-0.