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Tasman secure semifinal berth with win over Wellington

Tasman secure semifinal berth with yet another win over Wellington

By Aaron Goile [Stuff]

Tasman have secured their spot in the NPC semifinals, and ended Wellington’s hopes, after withstanding some late jitters to beat the Lions in their final-round clash in Blenheim on Saturday.

The hosts surged out of the gates to lead 24-0 after 26 minutes at Lansdowne Park, but an improving visiting side clawed their way back into the contest to get within five points with five minutes to play, before an after-the-siren try to Anton Segner sealed it 34-22 to the Mako.

The two-time defending champions finished in fourth spot in what will be an eighth consecutive Premiership playoff appearance, after an eighth straight victory over the men from the capital, dating back to 2010.

Tasman celebrate with Anton Segner after his late try clinched victory for the hosts at Lansdowne Park.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Tasman celebrate with Anton Segner after his late try clinched victory for the hosts at Lansdowne Park.

Coming off friendlies the last two weeks, Wellington were slow to get started, and ultimately paid the price.

Down by 20 at the break, they at least turned with a strong wind at their backs to give themselves some hope, but in the end were badly let down by their own inaccuracies.

Tasman spent the final half hour without Pari Pari Parkinson, after a nasty friendly fire incident with Segner had the key lock limping off with a right leg injury which might also serve up some angst for the Highlanders.

Mitchell Hunt directed things nicely for the Mako from No 10.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Mitchell Hunt directed things nicely for the Mako from No 10.

And after the bleached blonde trio of Connor Collins, Aidan Morgan and Jackson Garden-Bachop combined nicely for the latter to go over, along with a Morgan penalty goal soon after, the Mako deficit was cut to 10.

But, despite a plethora of ball in the home side’s half, the Lions just couldn’t really threaten seriously enough.

Caleb Delaney charged clear up the middle and Tasman scrambled brilliantly to win a crucial turnover, then Julian Savea and Tyrone Thompson got the drops to too easily let the Mako off the hook.

Finally, in the 74th minute, Wellington did find their third try, turning down a shot at goal and having Thompson profit from the lineout drive.

With time up, they had one last chance for a miracle play from a scrum inside their own 22m, but Garden-Bachop’s chip kick was gathered in by Segner, and the Blues’ newly-recruited German loosie coasted over to ease the heart flutters of the locals.

Earlier, those home fans had been able to kick back and enjoy the ride.

The hosts didn’t waste any time in stamping their mark, banking two tries from lineout drive tries in the opening quarter of an hour – to Quentin MacDonald and a burrowing Jacob Norris (after an impressive 10-metre pack drive) – as Wellington paid dearly for ill-discipline.

Then, just as the visitors looked some sort of chance of getting themselves back in the contest, they were dealt a savage blow as a Garden-Bachop pass was smartly snaffled by Leicester Fainga’anuku, and the flying winger went 75 metres for a brilliant intercept try.

Things went from bad to worse when the Lions had key fullback Ruben Love groggily leave the field after copping a head-on-head knock from Timoci Tavatavanawai, who, ironically, had not long been on the park as Regan Ware’s day was also ended by a failed HIA.

Julian Savea goes on the charge for Wellington.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Julian Savea goes on the charge for Wellington.

And then to really cap it off, a superb double-charge from Alex Nankivell – who released the ball on the ground then went again and offloaded for Levi Aumua to burst over – put the visitors down a double dozen.

In desperate need of a spark, Wellington duly got it with Taine Plumtree surging over for their first try less than two minutes later, thanks to some excellent work down the left touchline from Billy Proctor.

It was to be their only success of the half, though, as Tasman dominated with their scrum and added a simple three-pointer, before a golden Lions chance went begging on the stroke of halftime when Peter Umaga-Jensen had the ball knocked from his grasp by a diving Mitchell Hunt.

AT A GLANCE

Tasman 34 (Quentin MacDonald, Jacob Norris, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Levi Aumua, Anton Segner tries; Mitchell Hunt 3 con, pen) v Wellington 22 (Taine Plumtree, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Tyrone Thompson tries; Aidan Morgan 2 con, pen). HT: 27-7

Stuff MVP points: Mitchell Hunt 3, Alex Nankivell 2, Leicester Fainga’anuku 1.