Tasman Mako crowned champions
By Jonty Dine [Nelson Weekly]
The Tasman Mako have made history winning the Mitre 10 Cup premiership for the first time in its 13-year existence.
The Mako held off a ferocious challenge from the Wellington Lions 31-14 to claim its maiden title in an enthralling final in front to a packed house at Trafalgar Park.
Tasman drew first blood inside the first two minutes following an offensive penalty and Hunt went back to back after five as the hosts dominated early territory and possession.
Wellington goal-kicker Jackson Garden-Bachop pulled his first two attempts before finally putting the visitors on the board with his third opportunity
After Tasman regathered the kick-off, Will Jordan struck, running a superb line off a Hunt switch, slicing through the Lions defence and streaking in under the bar to push the hosts to a 13-3 lead.
Hunt stretched the advantage to 13 with a long range shot at goal before his opposite pulled it back, however Tasman surged further ahead as the Lions made a crucial mistake from the kick-off, skipper David Havili finishing off a Hunt line break to the delight of the packed Trafalgar Park crowd.
Wellington’s first try then came through powerhouse prop Alex Fidow as he monstered his way through the Mako defence from a breakdown close to the line.
Tasman dodged a missile right on the brink of halftime as a wayward pass from the base gave the Lions a golden opportunity to score but the visitors were unable to cash in and the Mako managed to survive until halftime with a 23-14 advantage.
Hunt reasserted the momentum for the Mako with his fourth penalty goal as the intensity kicked up a notch.
The pressure got to Lions skipper Du’Plussis Kirifi who committed a cardinal sin by taking out Finlay Christie and was lucky to escape a yellow card but Hunt was unable to take advantage as he produced his worst kick of the season, sailing well wide.
The Lions then butchered another chance to reduce the gap but a fortuitous knock on saw Tasman again escape thanks to a desperate Will Jordan cover tackle.
Tasman then survived 17 phases as the visitors threw everything at the Mako, the hosts showing incredible fortitude on defence.
Veteran Wyatt Crockett made an emphatic impact from the bench, forcing two crucial turnovers for his side to keep the Mako in control as the clock wound down.
Tasman maintained control in the final ten as Havili sent a penalty which would have sealed the in wide of the posts.
However, the result was never in doubt as Tasman showed plenty of composure in the final minutes and closed out its perfect, unbeaten season with a Premiership title.
Jordan capped off a sensational result for the region with his second on the back of a superb break by Alex Nankivell as the crowd began to celebrate.
Tasman 31 (Will Jordan 2, David Havili tries Mitchell Hunt 4 pens, 2 cons) defeated Wellington 14 (Alex Fidow tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 pens)