A superb second half fightback guided Tasman to a deserved 35-17 victory over defending champions Taranaki in New Plymouth on Thursday.
The win is an important one for the Makos as it provisionally takes them in to second position – two points adrift of tabletoppers Canterbury – on the table and gives them a chance of hosting a semi-final next weekend.
Auckland can scupper those plans, however, if they manage to beat Counties Manukau in Pukekohe on Saturday.
Tasman outscored the champions four tries to two although Taranaki had the better of the opening exchanges and held a 7-3 lead at half-time thanks to a Jackson Ormond try in the ninth minute. Earlier, Trent Renata had open the scoring with a penalty.
Taranaki didn't build on their early dominance and paid for it after the break. The game was still evenly poised at 13-10 to the Makos, after Quentin MacDonald crossed for their first try but they increased the intensity levels as the game progressed and took control of proceedings.
Vernon Fredericks and Liam Squire extended the lead, with well-taken tries, before Berny Hall struck back with a try in the 74th minnute for Taranaki.
Tasman had the last laugh, however, when Kieron Fonotia sealed victory with his side's fourth five-pointer shortly afterwards.
Tries: Ormond, Hall
Cons: Rei, McBride
Tries: MacDonald, Squire, Fredericks, Fonotia
Cons: Havili 2, Renata
Pens: Renata 2, Havili
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker. 14 Jackson Ormond, 13 Charlie Ngatai (captain), 12 Sean Wainui, 11 Latu Vaeno, 10 Codey Rei, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Riki Hoeata, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Sione Lea, 18 Ryan Cocker, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Berny Hall, 21 Kylem O'Donnell, 22 Liam McBride, 23 Avon Lewis.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneck. 14 Villiamai Lolehea, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Kade Poki, 10 Trent Renata, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie (captain), 6 Vernon Fredericks, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siua Halanukonuka, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Brock Kaahau, 18 Inoke Latu, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Tevita Kolomatangi, 21 James Lash, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Michael Scott.