Tasman upset Taranaki again to reach final

Getty Images

Saturday, October 21, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

They repeated their semifinal victory against the same opponent at the same venue last year and will meet Super Rugby franchise partner Canterbury in Saturday's final.
It was a relief for first five-eighths Mitchell Hunt who looked as if he might have blown a golden opportunity to seal the win seven minutes from the end.

Having scored 25 points for his side, from a try, a conversion and six penalty goals, Hunt botched an attempted penalty kick to the corner allowing Taranaki to get back onto the attack.

The incident happened after wing Taranaki Seta Tamanivalu was sin-binned for a high tackle on Tasman fullback Will Jordan just out from the Taranaki 22m area. Jordan left the field for an HIA.

Then after the re-start, Tasman coughed up the ball with a knock-on which was further exacerbated with a penalty awarded which saw Taranaki fullback Marty McKenzie line up a 56m penalty goal attempt. However, it just flew wide of the posts.

Tasman regained the ball from the restart and wing James Lowe hoofed the ball downfield and Taranaki decided to run the ball out from their 22m area but midfielder Alex Nankiville intercepted the ball and Tasman won a scrum feed five metres from the Taranaki line.

Taranaki took time to get into their game against a Tasman team who turned on the action from the outset, making their early inroads as a result of the home team's indiscipline which saw Hunt land three penalty goals in the first 16 minutes. Taranaki's indiscipline was their Achilles heel all game as Hunt's penalty haul demonstrated.

Taranaki finally got into the game after two strong scrums appeared to galvanise them and in the 25th minute they were able to take advantage with a blindside play where first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta's miss-out pass found McKenzie running onto it perfectly and able to feed wing Declan O'Donnell into space and he used his speed to run in the first try of the game.

But before Taranaki could settle on the lead, Tasman wing Tima Faingaanuku pulled off an intercept of a long pass from Taranaki halfback Te Toiroa Tahuiorangi and was only prevented from running in the easiest of tries by fine cover defence from Perofeta who tackled him short of the line.

The wing played the ball and managed to get over the line to reclaim the lead in the 28th minute.

However, scrum power again provided the foundation for a Taranaki assault which saw Tahuiorangi clear an unexpected release from the scrum. Perofeta quickly summed up the situation, slightly delayed his pass before slipping second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai the ball for an untrammelled run to the line.

Tied 17-17 at halftime, Tasman made a stunning start to the second half when, from a scrum, Hunt fed a ball to left wing James Lowe who had run into the line at second five-eighths and he stormed into vacant space and headed to the goal-line before being halted by Seta Tamanivalu but Jordan was in support and from the ruck, Hunt was on hand to score.

Silly play by Faingaanuku, just after Hunt had added a penalty goal to give Tasman a 10-point lead, when he threw the ball over advertising hoardings gave the home side a penalty they used to effect through hard-running by No.8 Toa Halafihi before Tahuiorangi scored under the posts.

Two minutes later in the 55th minute more hard running by Halafihi set up another chance and with the ball cleared quickly, Perofeta and centre Sean Wainui put Tamanivalu over out wide.

But with more attacking work created by their backs Tasman got back into the Taranaki 22m area where their scrum secured a penalty which Hunt goaled to put Tasman back in the lead with this sixth penalty goal.

Scorers: Taranaki 29 (Declan O'Donnell, Charlie Ngatai, Te Toiroa Tahuiorangi, Seta Tamanivalu tries; Marty McKenzie 3 con, pen) Tasman 30 (Tima Faingaanuku, Mitchell Hunt tries; Mitchell Hunt con, 6 pen). HT: 17-17