Sat, Oct 7, 2023 9:22 PM
Taranaki ended Tasman’s 2023 NPC rugby season with a 34-18 victory in New Plymouth tonight.
At a ground where they had not lost since 2017, Tasman entered the quarterfinal clash with high hopes but they were dashed in the early stages of the second spell.
After the scores were tied 13-13 at halftime, the home side produced a dynamic 13 minutes of rugby, scoring 21 unanswered points, albeit including a preposterous TMO-inspired penalty try ruling, to take the game out of the visitors’ grasp.
Although Tasman never gave up and scored a consolation Max Hicks try to lend some respectability to the scoreline they were still three scores adrift when the final whistle brought their disappointing campaign to a close.
The first half was a typical quarterfinal arm wrestle and ended with the sides locked together as they went into the sheds.
Tasman made the early running, stringing multiple phases together and looking the most likely to score. However, they conceded the first points after 10 minutes when Levi Aumua’s wide pass was intercepted by speedy Taranaki winger Vereniki Tikoisolomone who raced 80m before dotting down. The Bulls’ first five Josh Jacomb converted.
It took just four minutes for the Mako to reply, winger Macca Springer and flanker Hicks creating the initial momentum before powerhouse winger Timoci Tavatavanawai rumbled over in the right corner. Fullback Taine Robinson converted.
With both sides unable to maintain sufficient control to crack each other’s defence the remainder of the half became a penalty shoot-out, Jacomb and Robinson both finding the posts twice to create a stalemate after an intriguing first stanza.
Tasman lost key midfielder Levi Aumua at the break, Irishman Colm Hogan replacing him.
Taranaki moved ahead in the 42nd minute, fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens scoring after a superb chip and chase.
Nine minutes later they were invited into the Tasman 22 again through Mako ill-discipline and errors, Tom Florence scoring from close range.
Jacomb converted both tries but was not called on four minutes later when the officials somehow conspired to award a penalty try against Mako midfielder Alex Nankivell who brought down Pita Gus Sowakula from behind close to the Tasman line.
The referee suggested his tackle was fair, only for the TMO to intervene and call for a penalty try, which was duly awarded.
Although that was an undoubted turning point, the Mako were far from their best, their attack often looking disjointed, their set pieces shaky and their discipline lacking. Those to impress were Anton Segner, Hicks, Hugh Renton, Tavatavanawai, Springer and replacement Hogan.
The Mako end their season with a positive six win/five loss record and, although they reached the play-offs, they will not be satisfied with their efforts in the closing stages of their campaign, losing three straight to concede a possible home advantage and a quarterfinal match against a side they had beaten a month earlier at the same venue.
Scorers: Taranaki 34 (Vereniki Tikoisolomone, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Tom Florence tries, penalty try, Josh Jacomb 3 con, 2 pen) Tasman 18 (Timoci Tavatavanawai, Max Hicks tries, Taine Robinson con, 2 pen). HT: 13-13