Tas­man end Welling­ton’s un­beaten run

The Hutt News - - WHAT’S ON - WAYNE MARTIN

‘‘To sneak home with a win was fan­tas­tic.’’

Mitch Hunt again dis­played his match-win­ning tal­ents, steer­ing the Tas­man Makos to an ex­cit­ing 37-35 Mitre 10 Cup win over pre­vi­ously-un­beaten Welling­ton at Lans­downe Park in Blenheim on Sun­day.

Tas­man ap­peared in se­ri­ous dan­ger of slump­ing to their sec­ond de­feat against a cham­pi­onship team when Welling­ton led 28-13 shortly af­ter half­time. But in a clutch fin­ish, a con­verted Hunt try with just nine minutes re­main­ing pro­vided the late im­pe­tus for a thrilling home side win.

A late try to Welling­ton winger Losi Filipo with just minutes re­main­ing height­ened the ten­sion, although Tas­man held on.

Welling­ton had en­tered Sun­day’s con­test av­er­ag­ing 38 points a game from wins over Manawatu, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay. But, de­spite outscor­ing Tas­man five tries to four, it was the Makos’ time to cel­e­brate as they kept their play­off hopes alive.

Welling­ton suf­fered an early loss when skipper and No 8 Brad Shields de­parted with a leg in­jury af­ter just nine minutes. But they stunned Tas­man with two early length-of-the-field tries, prop Alex Fi­dow scor­ing the first fol­low­ing a turnover on Welling­ton’s line and full­back Ben Lam later back­ing up a su­perb break from cen­tre Wes Goosen for a handy 14-6 lead.

Welling­ton looked dan­ger­ous given width, their ex­cel­lent sup­port play and of­fload­ing of­ten hav­ing Tas­man scram­bling in de­fence.

But the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two teams in the first half was fin­ish­ing, Welling­ton’s ex­e­cu­tion was more clin­i­cal.

Also sig­nif­i­cant was the im­pact of Welling­ton’s tight five on at­tack, with all their big men mak­ing mas­sive con­tri­bu­tions to the team’s con­ti­nu­ity and strike power.

Tas­man’s per­sis­tence fi­nally paid off though when loose­head prop Tim Perry crashed over to re­duce Welling­ton’s lead to 14-13. How­ever, Welling­ton struck again just be­fore the break when big lock Sam Lousi scored af­ter an at­tack­ing li­ne­out for a 21-13 half­time lead.

It took Welling­ton just six minutes af­ter the restart to score their bonus try when lock James Black­well am­bled across.

Tas­man worked hard to stay in touch, full­back Will Jor­dan run­ning off a Hunt off­load for their sec­ond try. And when winger James Lowe latched on to a pin­point Alex Nankiv­ell grub­ber kick mid­way through the half, Tas­man were sud­denly back in touch at 28-27.

A penalty, fol­lowed by Hunt’s late try saw the home team surge ahead 37-28, mean­ing not even Filipo’s try with just minutes re­main­ing was enough to deny Tas­man a crit­i­cal win.

Tas­man’s de­fence and com­po­sure im­proved markedly through­out the sec­ond half as Welling­ton, for once, failed to de­liver.

Makos head coach Leon Mac­Don­ald was de­lighted to grab five points. ‘‘[Welling­ton] were a con­fi­dent team af­ter four wins, with plenty of ball play­ers on a dry track ... we de­fended well for long pe­ri­ods, then we just turned off for half a sec­ond and they were off and a try was scored.

‘‘A lot of [the prob­lem] was around per­sonal tack­ling, so it was a lot bet­ter ef­fort in the sec­ond half. To sneak home with a win was fan­tas­tic.’’

CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOSPORT

Tas­man’s Mitch Hunt crosses for the match-win­ning try. Tas­man coach Leon Mac­Don­ald

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