Tasman defeat Wellington for first time in history
The Tasman Makos have continued their remarkable run in the 2014 ITM Cup Premiership, defeating Wellington 42-20 in what is the youngest provincial union in New Zealand’s first win over the Lions in their sixth meeting.
It was blue chip stuff from the tourists who have now confirmed their status as a genuine threat for the trophy.
ITM Cup Full Time: Wellington 20 Tasman 42 #ITMCup #WELvTAS pic.twitter.com/dKapxIn7mJ— ITM Cup (@ITMCup) September 21, 2014
It was Tasman’s fifth win of the season, an outstanding return in their seventh match of the regular season, and will ensure that the union finishes the round in third position in the Premiership.
While recriminations will continue for Wellington, this was a match where registering 20 points was an achievement against a Makos side playing a compelling brand of rugby.
They scored points soon after Wellington did, hit the Lions ball carriers with intent to turnover, and ran direct straight lines with plenty of players hanging off each shoulder for support.
It was a close game in the opening quarter despite the eventual scoreline.
Tasman played as expected, but Wellington’s defence was up to the task early, with the Lions hanging back before effectively swarming the ball carrier.
At one stage the Makos went nearly 20 phases and travelled two metres.
However it was a false dawn for the capital, fullback Robbie Malneek scored in the 15th minute, with All Blacks Sevens star Bryce Heem bashing down the right before passing to his fullback, who then broke two tackles to score.
At this point Wellington’s lineout began to crumble, and in the 19th minute when James Lowe crashed over the Lions began to exchange some nervous glances.
Willie Ripia, who looked to be giving the hosts a little more spark on attack, kicked two key penalties in the 30th and 36th minute to keep the winless union in touch.
But Marty Banks would match every effort, systematically extending the lead with three penalties in the final 20 minutes of the first half to give Tasman a 21-6 halftime advantage.
Wellington came out looking aggressive in the final stanza as head coach Chris Boyd listed areas where his team needed to improve during the interviews at the interval.
But despite the early edge from the Lions, Tasman forward Alex Ainley would score in the 44th minute against the run of play, with the touring union methodical in how they were breaking down the Lions attacking efforts.
Five minutes later James Lowe would notch his second, making it a 35-6 game to Tasman with half an hour still to play.
To the home team’s credit, they kept fighting, but the Makos defence was durable and they adjusted as the match closed out, with Tasman’s kickers keeping Wellington’s runners pinned in their own half.
In the 67th minute Tolu Fahamokioa scored Wellington’s first five points, and it was the sort of muscular effort that showed what the Lions were capable of.
Alex Ainley of Tasman wins a lineout ball over Brad Shields of Wellington #ITMCup #WELvTAS pic.twitter.com/4Qr4lIpCKk— ITM Cup (@ITMCup) September 21, 2014
However as is Tasman’s preferred approach, they replied in kind.
Peter Samu would score a breakout try after the Makos defence forced a turnover, and while Eric Sione would score Wellington’s second moments later, it was small coin for a Lions side well beaten.
Tasman play Otago next up, before they play Canterbury in a game that could decide the Premiership.
While some might think Wellington’s season might not be able to get any worse, redemption in the form of the Ranfurly Shield could be offered – although Hawke’s Bay will be a difficult proposition for a struggling Lions team.
Tries: Fahamokioa, Sione
Cons: Ripia (2)
Pens: Ripia (2)
Tries: Malneek, Lowe (2), Ainley, Samu
Cons: Banks (4)
Pens: Banks (3)