Tasman 24 Waikato 19

There is still plenty of life left in the 35-year-old legs of Alex Ainley.

The Tasman Makos and Highlanders lock scored the decisive try six minutes from time to see off a talented but inaccurate Waikato outfit 24-19 in a Premiership clash in Blenheim.

That try emanated from a thrust by wing James Lowe and was just the third five pointer of a tense struggle in which a strong wind played its part. The Tasman pack rolled its sleeves, first five Mitch Hunt kicked the goals that mattered, and lively halfback Finlay Christie showed his wares with a nice try from a Kieron Fonotia in-pass.

In all, the Makos had the edge in possession and field position, but it may have been different if Waikato had not been so profligate. This is a young group that should be close to peaking in 2016, but perhaps 2017 may be a better pointer.


Damian McKenzie was the embodiment of their output, flawless off the tee and enterprising on attack, but he twice kicked out on the full and once knocked on, operating at No 10 from the get-go and at fullback for most of the second spell after Shaun Stevenson limped off with a knee injury. For all that, McKenzie may yet be called in as injury cover to the All Blacks for the Wellington Bledisloe.

Waikato's pack was industrious, via the likes of James Tucker, Jacob Skeen and Hame Faiva, while wing Jordan Trainor scored their sole try off a searing break by second five Willis Halaholo, fresh off a sterling season with the Hurricanes. Prop Atu Moli was back on his old stamping ground but departed the scene not long into the second spell.

"As a team, we've been together for six days. It was scrappy, but just good to get away with a win," said relieved Makos skipper Shane Christie.

Waikato are back in Hamilton for a Ranfurly Shield defence against North Harbour on Saturday, while later that night Tasman travel to Christchurch to face the hot to trot Canterbury.

Tasman 24 (Finlay Christie, Alex Ainley tries; Mitch Hunt con, 3 pen)
Waikato 19 (Jordan Trainor try; Damian McKenzie con, 4 pen)
HT: 10-9 Waikato