Waikato 33

Tasman 15

No one from Hamilton has crossed the Tasman this much since the days of Kiwi Air.

It wasn't really reflected on the scoreboard - especially in the first half - but Waikato broke the Makos defence repeatedly in a strong return to form last night. It was their first victory in four games and sent them into the top six.

Stephen Donald, in his first ITM Cup start of the season, was the outstanding figure. He kicked seven from seven, created several chances and directed play well throughout.

For one of the few times in 2010, Waikato added polish and patience to their attack.

All season the Mooloo men have been guilty of not capitalising on chances; before yesterday they had the least effective attack in the ITM Cup, having scored just 19 tries in eight games despite spending more time in the opposition 22 than any other side.

Last night they showed more conviction and precision, making numerous breaks on the fringes. If they couldn't score a try, Waikato at least made sure they took three points from each visit to the Tasman 22.

Tasman previously held the wood on Waikato - winning two of the three matches between the two sides - and never stopped trying but seemed condemned to their fifth loss in a row just a few minutes after halftime.

Donald's return added some real interest to the match and the home side had three other recent All Blacks - Liam Messam, Aled de Malmanche and Brendon Leonard - looking to press their claims for the end-of-season tour.

Donald made a confident start; his first touch was an arrowing pass that cut out two players; his first kick a 40m penalty, struck cleanly in the opening minute; and the 19-test All Black struck an assured figure throughout.

The 26-year-old seems to be off the international radar as focus centres on Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade but, admittedly against much inferior opposition, he issued a gentle reminder to messrs Henry and co.

Tasman's James Marshall, who must be one of the best running first-fives in the country, impressed as well but his backline was often squeezed for space by the fierce Waikato defence.

Mooloo No8 Alex Bradley was a big influence, ploughing over after 14 phases and five minutes of solid attack; scoring his second after a Donald break.

The Makos' chances were not helped by an injury to halfback and goalkicker Steve Alfeld and, as the match opened up, Waikato blew a series of chances with errors on the final pass. Openside Shane Christie's yellow card in the 53rd minute sealed the Makos' fate.

Waikato 33 (A. Bradley 2, S. Tokula tries, S Donald 3 cons, S. Donald 4 pens), Tasman 15 (A. Pelenise, C. Moore tries, J. Marshall con, S Alfeld pen). Halftime: 16-10