Rugby: Waikato edge Tasman

By Cameron McMillan

Piers Francis of Waikato is tackled by Peter Betham, left, and Kieron Fonotia of Tasman. Photo / Getty Images
Piers Francis of Waikato is tackled by Peter Betham, left, and Kieron Fonotia of Tasman. Photo / Getty Images

Waikato 20 Tasman 19
Waikato got the confidence boost they desperately needed ahead of a potential Ranfurly Shield challenge next week by breaking a two-match losing streak with a 20-19 victory over Tasman at Waikato Stadium tonight.

The Mooloos moved off the bottom of the Premeirship table, a spot they shared with Hawkes Bay, with a two tries to one win. If Taranaki retain the Shield against Manawatu on Saturday, Waikato will travel to New Plymouth next Wednesday with a chance to get their hands on the Log o' Wood for a ninth tenure.

Trailing 19-13 shortly after the break, Waikato scored the only try of the second half with Save Tokula crossing over for what proved to be the match winner - however Tasman would have a good reason to feel aggrieved with a forward pass putting the Waikato centre into a gap and then television replays raising doubts over whether he even
grounded the ball after crossing the line.

Luck may have given Waikato the lead but solid defence and smart territorial play in the second half ensured they secured their third victory of the season.

The defeat is the third straight for Tasman, who remain mid-table in the Championship, nine points behind leaders Counties-Manukau who play Auckland tomorrow night.

Piers Francis and Tom Marshall traded penalties throughout the first half with Tasman holding a 9-6 advantage shortly before the break. After 38 minutes of rugby it looked odds-on for a try-less first half before the game opened up and both teams dotted over.

Minutes after holding strong in defence inside their half for 17 straight phases, Tasman undid all the hard work to let Waikato score from just outside their own 22. Zak Hohneck and Declan O'Donnell did all the hard work to set former All Black halfback Brendon Leonard up who finished it off with an easy 10 metre dash over the line.

Tasman struck back a minute later when explosive winger Peter Betham ran onto a short ball from first-five Hayden Cripps and stepped inside Waikato fullback Tim Mikkelson to run in from 40 metres and score under the posts. Marshall converted to make it 16-13 Tasman at the break and then extended the lead to six points with an early penalty
in the second half.

Tokula scored Waikato's second in the 52nd minute but it was suspect at best as Francis put the centre into space with a forward pass before Tokula crossed over after linking up with Mikkelson - whether he grounded the ball added more doubt to the legitimacy of the try.

Francis put Waikato in the lead 20-19 with a conversion from out wide which proved to be crucial.

Tasman skipper Andrew Goodman missed a long distance penalty attempt late in the match, the visitors' only chance to retain the lead - a reflection of the strong Waikato defence and territorial play in the second half.

Waikato 20 Brendon Leonard, Save Tokula tries, Piers Francis 2 pens, Francis 2 cons.
Tasman 19 Peter Betham try, Tom Marshall 4 pens, Marshall con

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