Sun, Sep 17, 2023 6:25 PM
Tasman breezed past Counties Manukau, scoring a 27-17 victory in their round seven NPC rugby clash at Blenheim’s Lansdowne Park this afternoon.
The match was played out amid a gale-force wind that brought trees down around the region, fully tested the skills of all concerned.
Tasman played into the elements in the first spell and their game plan quickly became obvious. Utilising one-off runners, snipes around the ruck from superb halfback Noah Hotham and quick taps kicks, they attempted to starve their rivals of possession.
However, it was the Steelers who struck first, scoring the game’s first try after 12 minutes. As the Mako attempted to run the ball clear of their goal line it was dropped, hooker Ian West-Stevens being left with a short gallop to touch down. Tevita Ofa’s conversion provided the visitors with a 7-0 advantage.
Tasman were battling to find their way into their opponent’s half, a Quinten Strange break giving them rare field position before handling errors conspired to allow Counties back into the Mako 22, from where Ofa landed a penalty to increase their lead.
Four minutes later Tasman opened their account. A Counties kick travelled too far with the wind’s help, allowing the home side a scrum on the Counties 22. Although the planned back move was botched, the ball ended up in the capable hands of local favourite Timoci Tavatavanawai who dashed over in the right corner.
They backed it up 10 minutes later when, after charges by Mike Curry and Alex Nankivell, Taine Robinson crossed untouched for a vital score. Both of Robinson’s conversion attempts failed to reach the posts, testament to the tricky conditions.
On the stroke of halftime Tasman were held up over the line as the whistle blew on a satisfying first 40 for the home side.
Counties brought their own possession-based game in the early stages of the second half, their dangerous runners proving a handful but Tasman’s defence held firm.
However. after 15 minutes Tasman got their hands on the ball and made no mistake, a scintillating Nankivell break sending winger Will Gaulter in at the corner.
Again, the conversion was missed but Tasman were in the lead for the first time.
Their fourth and bonus point try came on the 23-minute mark, replacement hooker Quentin MacDonald scoring his 18th try for the Mako from a lineout drive.
Four minutes later they were in again, impressive loosie Seta Baker unstoppable from close range. Finally, Robinson mastered the breeze to land his first conversion and stretch his side’s lead to 27-10 with 10 minutes to play.
The brave Counties side, who beat Canterbury midweek, were not done however, flanker Sean Reidy scoring from close range after a lengthy TMO discussion, Ofa adding the conversion to reduce the gap to 10.
But ultimately the day belonged to Tasman, who hung tough in the first half and clinched the deal in the second to maintain their position near the top of the NPC table.
Scores: Tasman 27 (Timoci Tavatavanawai, Will Gaulter, Quentin MacDonald, Seta Baker, Taine Robinson tries; Robinson con) Counties Manukau 17 (Ian West-Stevens, Sean Reidy tries; Tevita Ofa pen, 2 con). HT: 10-10