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Tasman the first team since 2007 to go through regular season unbeaten

Tasman have made it a perfect 10 from 10 in the regular season, after beating Hawke's Bay 47-28 in their Mitre 10 Cup crossover clash in Napier on Saturday afternoon.

Already assured of top spot in the premiership division, the Mako showed no signs of letting up, powering to another big victory, which sees them become the first team in 12 years to enter the playoffs undefeated.

No team had managed a perfect regular season since 2007, when Auckland achieved the feat and went on to win the title.

And it's going to take something special to stop this Tasman side from doing likewise, after they finished with a staggering points differential of +277 from their regular season, after their seven-tries-to-four victory at McLean Park.

Hawke's Bay needed a win to overtake Bay of Plenty and take top seeding in the championship division, but it was always going to be a massive ask, and they will have to settle for second, still with a home semifinal secure, which will be against Otago next weekend.

The home side had started in fine fashion, opening the scoring in just the sixth minute through blindside flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, then had another go-ahead score from No 8 Devan Flanders halfway through the first half, and scored another two tries over the final 15 minutes. But in between times they were well outplayed.

Conceding the first three penalties of the match, Tasman had actually struggled to get themselves into the game, but come the 14th minute, a piece of Alex Nankivell magic saw them back on level terms.

Following a huge first scrum, the standout second five-eighth latched onto front-foot ball and ran well, and despite seemingly being tackled, continued to pump the legs, burst further ahead, and then gave to No 8 Sione Havili - a late inclusion for Jordan Taufua - on his shoulder to finish.

A 28th minute yellow card against lock Geoff Cridge for a high tackle on Nankivell would prove a turning point for Hawke's Bay, as the Mako began to assert their authority.

Winger Leicester Faingaanuku scored off a brilliant set-play from a close-range lineout, set up by a couple of beautiful short inside passes, then Tasman then camped on the Magpies' line late in the half, and a struggling scrum had the hosts handed a warning from referee Richard Kelly.

The Mako then went close with pick and goes, and eventually profited out wide after the siren, when Mitch Hunt sent a wide pass to Tima Faingaanuku, who did superbly to bust through the defenders on the right touch and give the visitors a 19-14 halftime lead.

And the second stanza started just as the first finished, with Hawke's Bay their own worst enemy in fluffing the kickoff receipt. Tasman didn't need a second invitation, and after spinning wide, it was Leicester Faingaanuku popping up on the right flank and finishing from five metres out for his double.

With the deficit at 12 points, the Magpies really needed to be next to score. But with a set-piece struggle, they just couldn't get their hands on any quality ball, and were left to do plenty of tackling. Or at least try to, as the Mako put on a three-try blitz in the space of seven minutes, either side of the hour-mark.

Hunt started the spree with a jinking run on halfway, then a pacey support run to be on hand to finish after several nice offloads; then it was Nankivell with a sublime 45-metre effort where he again left defenders in his wake; before two replacement front rowers conjured the next one - prop Isaac Salmon finding himself in a huge hole and giving hooker Hugh Roach a 10-metre run-in.

Hawke's Bay had a double dose of consolations in the final 12 minutes, which saw them earn their ninth four-try bonus point from 10 games.


Tasman 47 (Leicester Faingaanuku 2, Sione Havili, Tima Faingaanuku, Mitch Hunt, Alex Nankivell, Hugh Roach tries; Mitch Hunt 4 con, David Havili 2 con) Hawke's Bay 28 (Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Devan Flanders, Caleb Makene, Jason Long tries; Tiaan Falcon 3 con, Lincoln McClutchie con). HT: 19-14.