Counties Manukau 10
This was a gnarly old Premiership clash in Blenheim, but the Makos deserved the win and the kudos for a smarter, more tactically astute display.
The Steelers made myriad errors, were ill-disciplined, spurned bankable shots at goal and kicked poorly for position for much of the encounter. And yet one never really had the feeling that they were out of it. The sole try of the match came in the second quarter, to Steelers skipper Jimmy Tupou, and was a brief glimpse of the compelling rugby they have shown in 2016 against Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Auckland and Bay of Plenty. It involved yards up the middle, quick ruck ball and two clean, long passes.
But the Steelers were curiously off colour for most of the first stanza, inaccurate with their kicking and loose with their discipline. August Pulu, so central to their recent success, was the embodiment of this inaccuracy, the halfback kicking away ball to hand and not land, while he then copped a yellow card for a retaliatory punch.
The Makos missed their injured forwards Shane Christie and Kane Hames, but they lent on wily, seasoned campaigners such as captain Alex Ainley and Tim Perry and the young tyro lock Quin Strange. However, the normally reliable and prolific Marty Banks was astray off the tee, and those missed points almost counted in the home stretch. But his 15 points were still priceless in the final analysis.
The Makos pack gave the Steelers plenty of curry in the set-pieces and the breakdown, though Pauliasi Manu's second half entry stabilised the visitors' scrum.
The Steelers' best were right wing Sione Fifita and centre Sam Vaka, who were both penetrative.
The Premiership competition points upshot sees the Makos leapfrog Waikato into fifth position, alongside Auckland, while the Steelers move to 25 due to their ninth bonus point, alongside Taranaki.
Tasman are back in Thursday night action next week against Auckland at Eden Park, while Counties Manukau travel to Otago on Saturday week.
Tasman 15 (Marty Banks 5 pen) Counties Manukau 10 (Jimmy Tupou try; Piers Francis con, pen) HT: 12-1