Taranaki has lost its first game of the season 28-18 against premiership leaders Tasman at Yarrow Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The cross-over match was always going to live up to expectations as both sides led their respective tables and started the season with three wins from as many games.

That anticipation was reflected in a strong crowd of just over 4000 that turned up to Yarrow Stadium on a still, fine spring afternoon.

Taranaki suffered a blow a day before the match with starting halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi ruled out due to illness. That promoted one cap halfback Lisati Milo-Harris to the starting XV, for the first time this season, and Xavier Roe to the bench.

Advertisement

At times, Taranaki was their own worst enemy with five lineouts against the throw throughout the match while being in positive field position.

That coupled with penalty kicks that didn't find touch would have been coach killers for Willie Rickards.

What could also be concerning is the number of Taranaki players who left the field due to injury.

Prop Reuben O'Neill, lock Tupou Vaa'i, loose forward Kaylum Boshier and captain Mitch Brown all left the field with niggles.

Taranaki were made to defend for most of the match in a physical encounter and Tasman, through excellent awareness, scored two tries in the first half by cross field kicks.

Wing Tima Faingaanuku scored them both in similar fashion, one just before half time that put pressure on the Taranaki defence.

Two Daniel Waite penalty kicks ensured Taranaki was still in the game at 18-6 at the break.

The second half started positively for Taranaki with some excellent movement down the field. They kept the ball alive and found space behind the Tasman defence twice by kicking it through. Flanker Lachlan Boshier dotted down first in the corner followed by wing and crowd favourite Waisake Naholo.

Advertisement

However, Tasman always had the upper hand in the match by adding extra points where it counted.

Halfback Finlay Christie snuck through a tackle to place the ball on the line under the sticks and first five-eighth Mitch Hunt slotted two penalty kicks and a conversion in his efforts.

Taranaki midfielder Teihorangi Walden, who took over the captaincy from Mitch Brown, acknowledged the physicality of the match, that event included a short spell away from the action himself.

"It was a physical game. We made a lot of tackles."

Walden also heaped praise on the victors, who now sit alone at the top of the premiership.

"They're a good side. Credit to them to get the width. But I'm proud of the boy's efforts."

Walden also acknowledged the looming Ranfurly Shield challenge.

"We're pretty excited, weren't thinking this week, but looking forward to going down and having a crack."

Tasman captain David Havili, an All Black in 2017, highlighted the importance of the win for his side.

"We knew it was going to be physical. It's a hard place to come and win."

At a glance:
Tasman 28: (Tries:T Faingaanuku 2, A Makalio, F Christie, Cons: M Hunt 2 pens, con),
Taranaki 18: (Tries: L Boshier, W Naholo, Cons: D Waite 2 pens,)
Half Time: 18-6.