Tasman’s outstanding season continued apace when they showed far greater hunger for the ball than Southland to prepare for the ITM Cup Championship final with a 49-28 win at Blenheim on Saturday.
With Tasman’s find of the season, first five-eighths Marty Banks firing wind-assisted penalty goals from anywhere within 55m of the goal in the first half, and Southland making silly mistakes especially when enjoying a 2:1 majority of possession, it shaped as a romp for the home team.
Southland scored two tries in a third-quarter comeback to wing Bryan Milne and No.8 Elliott Dixon but Tasman had more left in their tank for the final quarter and Banks was to the fore again.
Banks scored a 73rd minute try to go along with five conversions and three penalty goals for a match haul of 24 points and his season total, after seven games, on 154 points.
Southland were left with little more than hiccups to show for the feast of possession they had been unable to swallow in the first half.
Looking like they had been reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in their build-up Southland played with their own split personality. By the time they woke up in the second half, the game had gone. They did make it to 21-30 down.
But then, in the 58th minute, Tasman wing Bryce Heem broke through a gap and hared toward the line only to have the ball taken from his grasp by Southland fullback Robbie Robinson. However, Heem recovered the bouncing ball and got it over the line to get his side out to 35-21.
That action exemplified the hunger that will make Tasman a significant foe for either Otago or Hawke’s Bay in next week’s final.
Southland’s first mistake, of far too many, was a chargedown of an attempted clearing kick by first five-eighths Scott Eade. It was taken by blindside flanker Tevita Koloamatangi and he cleared out on a 60m to score the first try and then Banks converted and added a penalty goal.
A second try, to wing Mitchell Scott, after a well-worked turnover by hooker Quentin MacDonald, was ruled out when prop Sila Puafisi was ruled to have been off-side, on video evidence, at the original breakdown.
Puafisi was in the action moments later when Southland’s penalty kick from his earlier infringement failed to find touch. But lock Joe Wheeler’s pass to Puafisi was too high and Eade was on the spot to snare the ball and race 30m to score and convert the try.
But in the 26th minute a Tasman breakout led by prop Tim Perry saw him feed No.8 Liam Squire and he trashed the Southland defence en route to the goal-line.
Scott finally got his try, from another Southland mistake, when fullback James Lowe stole Southland ball in the tackle and immediately transferred to Scott who was unchallenged on a 50m run to the line.
Tasman 49 (Tevita Koloamatangi, Liam Squire, Mitchell Scott, Bryce Heem, Marty Banks tries; Banks 5 con, 3 pen)