Taranaki claimed their first ever National Provincial Championship title on Saturday after beating Tasman 36-32 in the ITM Cup.
Taranaki claimed their first ever National Provincial Championship title on Saturday after beating Tasman 36-32 in the ITM Cup Final at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
In an exciting final, that must be considered a great advertisement for the game in New Zealand, Tasman outscored their hosts four tries to three with Taranaki inside centre Charlie Ngatai and Makos replacement scrum-half Billy Guyton bagging a brace each.
Having topped the standings at the end of the regular season, victory in the grand final caps a fairytale season for the ‘Naki, who finished second from bottom last year.
The Amber and Blacks led 16-10 at the interval thanks to a try from hooker Rhys Marshall and a faultless kicking display from wing Codey Rei.
By contrast, Tasman fly-half Marty Banks will rue having a rare off night with boot, missing four penalties that ultimately cost his team dearly.
Tasman had briefly taken the lead at the end of the first quarter via a try from centre Kieron Fonotia – with some help from the TMO – but Marshall’s try on the half-hour mark put Taranaki back in front, and they never looked back.
Ngatai scored two long-range tries after the interval – including a length-of-the-field intercept when the Makos were hard on the attack – and Rei’s fourth penalty gave the hosts a 20-point leading heading into the final quarter.
Guyton scored just after the hour mark and flanker Peter Samu touched down with nine minutes to play as the Makos launched a comeback.
But Rei – who hit the target with all eight of his attempts at goal – continued to keep the scoreboard ticking from the kicking tee, meaning Guyton’s second try, in the final minute, proved too little too late for the visitors.
Man of the match: An outstanding performance from Charlie Ngatai who played a hand in all three of Taranaki’s tries, making the break that set up the first before touching down the next two himself.
Moment of the match: It was a close battle throughout but Rhys Marshall’s try on the half-hour mark gave Taranaki the momentum at a key moment. His decision to tap and go rather than settle for three points summed up the attitude of two teams that played wonderful, positive rugby.
Villain of the match: No nasty stuff. What a game!
Tries: R. Marshall, Ngatai 2
Cons: Rei 3
Pens: Rei 5
Tries: Fonotia, Guyton 2, Samu
Cons: Banks 3
Pens: Banks 2
Taranaki: 15 James Marshall (c), 14 Codey Rei, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Iopu Iopu-Aso, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Riki Hoeata, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Sione Lea, 17 Ryan Cocker, 18 Mitchell Brown, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Ormond, 22 Kurt Baker.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 James Lowe, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Siua Hulanukunuka.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Reuben Northover, 18 Tevita Cavubati, 19 Vernon Fredricks, 20 Billy Guyton, 21 David Havili, 22 Mitchell Scott.
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Damian Botherway
Television match official: Glenn Newman