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Tasman stun Hawke's Bay to make it to NPC final

Tasman stun Hawke's Bay to make it to NPC final

By David Long [Stuff]

Tasman Mako upset the odds and defeated Hawke’s Bay 33-27 for a place in next weekend’s NPC final.

Hawke’s Bay had clearly been the dominant team in provincial rugby this year, retaining the Ranfurly Shield and losing just one of their eight games during the regular season.

As for Tasman, it had been something of a step backwards for the province in the Premiership, having won the title the last two seasons through some scintillating rugby.

Andrew Knewstubb was a constant threat with ball in hand against Hawke’s Bay.
KERRY MARSHALL/GETTY IMAGES
Andrew Knewstubb was a constant threat with ball in hand against Hawke’s Bay.

When these teams met for a Shield game last month Hawke’s Bay convincingly won 34-22 and it appeared that the Mako might have lost one or two players too many to still be the force they were, especially as they only finished fourth on the table.

However, this Andrew Goodman-coached team rose to the occasion, bringing more physicality to the battle in the middle while in the backs players like Andrew Knewstubb, Mitch Hunt and Timoci Tavatavanawai made the most of any space they were given.

In playoff rugby it’s all about accumulating points and that’s just what Tasman did in the fourth minute when Mitch Hunt kicked a penalty from in front.

Danny Toala and the rest of the Hawke's Bay team fought their way back into the semifinal against Tasman.
KERRY MARSHALL/GETTY IMAGES
Danny Toala and the rest of the Hawke's Bay team fought their way back into the semifinal against Tasman.

Three minutes later Tasman had a try, with hooker Andrew Makalio being the ball carrier as a maul marched its way over the line.

But the semifinal favourites weren’t kept quiet for long as Jonah Lowe benefitted from Hawke’s Bay having numbers on the right, by skirting around the defence for the Magpies’ first try.

A second Mako penalty from Hunt was followed up by the Magpies’ opening try, scored by Tom Parsons, with it again coming from a maul.

All Blacks sevens star Knewstubb scored straight after for Tasman as this continued to be a game where defences weren’t turning up.

Lincoln McClutchie's 55m penalty kick in the 64th minute put Hawke's Bay into the lead for the first time in their semifinal against Tasman.
KERRY MARSHALL/GETTY IMAGES
Lincoln McClutchie's 55m penalty kick in the 64th minute put Hawke's Bay into the lead for the first time in their semifinal against Tasman.

Tasman’s next try, to Tavatavanawai, in the 29th minute came after a forward pass to Newstubb was missed.

Then in the final minute of the opening half Moana Pasifika-bound Lincoln McClutchie threw a superb pass to change the angle of attack which resulted in a try to Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, making the score 25-17 to Tasman at the break.

For the first 10 minutes of the second half Hawke’s Bay were all over Tasman, but struggled to find a way through a resilient goal line defence.

However, eventually the defence broke down and Geoff Cridge got himself a try.

Tasman kept hold of that one-point lead until the 65th minute when McClutchie nailed a penalty from 55 metres out.

But a huge moment in the game came a couple of minutes later when Tasman’s Leicester Fainga’anuku caught a wild pass thrown by Lolagi Visinia and raced away to score.

Hunt’s penalty with four minutes to go stretched the lead to six points

In the final minute the Magpies had a lineout 5m out from the Mako goal line. The ball was taken, the forwards edged the ball closer, but somehow Levi Aumua managed to snaffle the ball away at a ruck to secure the win.

AT A GLANGE

Hawke’s Bay 27 (Jonah Lowe, Tom Parsons, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Geoff Cridge tries, Lincoln McClutchie 2 cons, pen) v Tasman 33 (Andrew Makalio, Andrew Knewstubb, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Leicester Fainga’anuku tries; Mitch Hunt 3 pens, 2 cons) HT: 17-25.