New Zealand Cup
Tasman make top eight
October 4, 2008
Afeaki Pelenise grabbed two tries for the quarter-finals-bound Tasman
© Getty Images
Playing like there's no tomorrow, Tasman secured a quarterfinal berth in the Air NZ Cup rugby championship with a 36-7 demolition of Manawatu in their final round robin match in Palmerston North today.
Needing a bonus-point win to usurp Taranaki from the top eight, it looked a like a bridge too far for troubled Tasman whose future in the Air NZ Cup remains unclear because of the on-going discord between founding sub-unions Marlborough and Nelson Bays.
With the win, Tasman moved to 23 points, equal with Taranaki, but overtake them because they beat Taranaki 33-23 in the third round. They trailed 5-7 at halftime as bottom-placed Manawatu, playing a fund-raiser for teammate Aaron Cruden who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, seemed set for an unlikely upset.
Tasman started by using their forwards to build the phases before moving the ball wide. But with their eyes firmly focused on Tasman's tryline, they left the back door ajar in the seventh minute.
Defending mightily into a strong wind, Manawatu effected a turnover and fullback Francisco Bosch kicked on, recovered the ball and fed wing Andre Taylor on the cut back. Taylor found fellow wing Lote Raikabula who needed just three strides to score his seventh try of the season. Matty James converted.
Tasman were a shadow of the side that troubled Wellington in their Ranfurly Shield challenge last week as they struggled to break a dogged Manawatu defence down. Manawatu gave up territory in favour of possession, keeping play tight when they had the ball.
Tasman finally broke through in the 35th minute. Miah Nikora moved the ball down the blind side from a ruck and hooker Daniel Perrin broke through before his pass found wing Blair Cook who dotted down in the right hand corner. Nikora missed the conversion.
Having got a wake up call from coach Todd Blackadder, Tasman, with halfback Kahn Fotuali'i, winger Blair Cook, centre Kade Poki, prop Ben Franks, number eight Mark Bright and fullback Robbie Malneek firing, stormed hom with five well-taken tries.
Two came while Manawatu's Johnny Leota was spending time in the sin-bin after being shown the yellow card for what appeared to be a strong tackle but one which referee Keith Brown thought was dangerous. Winger Afeleki Pelenise showed his finishing prowess with two tries. Nikora, Malneek and Poki added the others as a winded Manawatu defence finally crumbled.
Result of an Air NZ Cup rugby match played at Palmerston North today:
Tasman 36 (Afeleki Pelenise 2, Blair Cook, Miah Nikora, Robbie Malneek, Kade Poki tries, Andrew Goodman 3 con) Manawatu 7 (Lote Raikabula try, Matty James con). Halftime: 5-7.