Rugby: Tasman seal top spot

By Kris Shannon

Joe Wheeler scored his side's first try as Tasman defeated Taranaki to seal top spot in the ITM Cup Championship. Photo / Getty
Joe Wheeler scored his side's first try as Tasman defeated Taranaki to seal top spot in the ITM Cup Championship. Photo / Getty

Taranaki 20
Tasman 27

Tasman continued on course for promotion to the ITM Cup and showed they belong in the Premiership by claiming their third top-tier scalp this season.

The Makos completed a memorable week by beating Taranaki 27-20 in New Plymouth today, securing top spot in the Championship and home advantage throughout the playoffs.

Their 64-28 win over Waikato on Wednesday sealed a home semifinal and allowed Tasman to rest several players for the clash with Premiership strugglers Taranaki, but the changes did little to disrupt the form they have shown throughout the campaign.

Along with this week's double, Tasman also upset the odds on Counties earlier in the year and their only loss to Premiership opposition was against big brother Canterbury.

They own both the best attack and defence in the second tier and, in Marty Banks, have one of the competition's top players. Banks was missing today after suffering a head knock but his teammates overcame his absence to defeat a home side determined to end a disappointing season on a high.

Taranaki began in a dogged style they had failed to show for much of the season, bossing territory and restricting the visitors to two Billy Guyton penalties in the opening quarter.

But the running rugby Tasman have exhibited all season soon came to the fore, albeit with the aid of a misdirected pass, with Andrew Symons scooping up a loose ball and bursting through a couple of tackle before offloading for Joe Wheeler to cross.

While Tasman were soon reduced to 14 men when Tim Perry was harshly sin-binned for a high tackle on Andre Taylor, the Makos increased their lead during the prop's absence when Mitchell Scott raced clear and collected Bryce Heem's chip.

Like the first, the try came from nothing and was emblematic of the first half, with Taranaki edging every halftime stat except for the one which counted.

But Tasman soon added to their 21-6 lead with Guyton's fourth penalty before Seta Tamanivalu hauled Taranaki back into the contest, cutting a swathe though the Makos' defence.

As the game opened up in the final 20 minutes, Kurt Baker was robbed of a certain try by a last-ditch tackle from Scott, but Taranaki weren't to be denied for long, with Taylor taking advantage of a suspect pass to score under the posts.

But Guyton's fifth penalty ended the hosts' gallant challenge and clinched Tasman's seventh win from nine games.

Taranaki 20 (Tamanivalu, Taylor tries; Taylor 2 pens, 2 cons)
Tasman 27 (Wheeler, Scott tries; Guyton 5 pens, con)
HT: 6-21

- APNZ

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