Rugby: Hawke's Bay dispatch Tasman to retain Ranfurly Shield

By Christopher Reive

Hawke's Bay 34
Tasman 22

Tasman will again have to wait for their first reign with the Ranfurly Shield.

The Mako came up short in their bid to pry the Log O' Wood from the grasp of Hawke's Bay, with the Magpies claiming an impressive 34-22 win.

It was Tasman's third attempt to win the Shield in the union's history, but their first in almost a decade, when they came up short against Taranaki in 2012.

While Tasman enjoyed the bulk of the possession and territory in the first half, it was the hosts who had the lead at the break, punishing the Mako at every opportunity.

It didn't take long for Hawke's Bay to get on the board, courtesy of one of the best tries this season. No 8 Devan Flanders got over the ball at the breakdown inside his own 22 as Tasman threatened the Hawke's Bay line, before blindside flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, halfback Ereatara Enari and winger Stacey Ili combined to go the length of the field, with Enari putting the finishing touches on the move.

Flanders and Mikaele-Tu'u were both immense for the Magpies, but their work defensively was particularly influential as they were often the catalysts for the Hawke's Bay counter attack – which was the source of their scoreboard supremacy.

Openside flanker Brendon O'Connor and fullback Lolagi Visinia were the benefactors of slick build-up play as Hawke's Bay made the most of every opportunity while Tasman were forced to plug away in threes from the boot of Mitch Hunt.

When Ili went over late in the first half to increase Hawke's Bay lead 22-9, Tasman's dream of lifting the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in their history was slipping away. The scoreboard pressure was eased just before the break, however, when Shannon Frizell crashed over under the sticks, and a penalty goal after the hooter saw Tasman trail by just five.

With less than 30 minutes remaining, another Hunt penalty closed the gap to just two points, but that was further extended just minutes later through a try from Magpies winger Neria Fomai.

There was some controversy in the build-up as Tasman prop Isi Tuungafasi was pulled up for a poor tackle on Ash Dixon in which he showed no attempt to get his arms around the ball carrier. After a review, it was deemed there was no contact with Dixon's head and no card was shown despite it being a clear shoulder charge.

As Tasman punched away at the Hawke's Bay line moments later, the decision threatened to become a major talking point. However, the Hawke's Bay defence held strong, as it had all afternoon.

A penalty from the boot of Tiaan Falcon in the final minutes pushed the gap to 12 points and keep the Shield locked away in Hawke's Bay.

Hawke's Bay 34 (Ereatara Enari, Brendon O'Connor, Lolagi Visinia, Stacey Ili, Neria Fomai tries; Lincoln McClutchie 3 cons, Tiaan Falcon pen)
Tasman 22 (Shannon Frizell try; Mitch Hunt con, 5 pens)
HT: 24-19

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