A try on full time gave Tasman a boilover 25-22 victory against champions Canterbury in a mainly lifeless match in Nelson tonight.

Tasman, who finished bottom of the second-tier ITM Cup championship last season, triumphed via a thrilling end to a game they thoroughly deserved to win. It was Tasman's second win in six outings against their big brother neighbours.

Canterbury had taken a late lead through a Johnny McNicholl try after one of their very few incisive attacks, and it looked as though Tasman's impressive underdog act would end in disappointment.

But with the script writers ready to pen something about broken Tasman hearts, the home side roared back on to attack after lethargic Canterbury defence allowed a Tasman chip kick to bounce.


Canterbury should still have wrapped the game up but first five-eighths Tyler Bleyendaal, who had a mixed match dotted with errors, had a clearing kick from behind his tryline partially charged by an airborne Hayden Cripps. Replacement back Kieron Fonotia pounced with a sharp run to the posts and was mobbed by jubilant team-mates.

It was an awful opening to Tabai Matson's Canterbury coaching career, and he may have paid a price for starting the match with star turns Andy Ellis and George Whitelock on the bench. Canterbury also lost leading back Sean Maitland to first half finger dislocation.

Tasman were rarely troubled by Canterbury's laboured attacks and Robbie Fruean did nothing to suggest his poor Super 15 form was about to be remedied by ITM Cup action.

Instead, it was Tasman who provided two lovely moves for their initial tries while Canterbury relied on goalkicking.

Tasman 25 (S. Christie, R. Malneek, K. Fonotia tries; A. Goodman 2 con, pen; H. Cripps drop goal)
Canterbury 22 (J. McNicholl try; T. Taylor 4 pen, T Bleyendaal con, pen). HT: 11-9.