28 Nov 2020

Mako defend title in tense final

9:11 pm on 28 November 2020

Tasman have won back-to-back titles in the Premiership division of rugby's national provincial competition.

Tasman Sione Havili celebrates a try just before halftime during the Mitre 10 Cup Final rugby match between Auckland and Tasman Makos, held at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand.  28  November  2020

Photo: PhotoSport / Brett Phibbs

In a tense final contested largely in close quarters and featuring no shortage of kicking, the Mako hung on for a 13-12 win over home side Auckland at Eden Park on Saturday night.

The result followed up Tasman's title success in 2019, where they went undefeated on their way to their first NPC Premiership crown.

Tasman led 10-9 at halftime, sneaking ahead after the hooter for the break had sounded when hooker Quentin MacDonald was shunted over from a lineout maul to score the only try of the match.

The try came immediately after Auckland skipper Angus Ta'avao had been yellow carded for bringing down the visitor's previous attempt to maul their way over the line.

The second half was even more of an arm-wrestle, with defence continuing to dominate as both teams looked for the winning blow.

Auckland regained the lead soon after the resumption through a Harry Plummer penalty and, after going close to a second try on several occasions, the Mako finally edged back ahead with 10 minutes remaining through a long-range penalty to captain David Havili.

The home side had their chances in the dying stages, including a Simon Hickey drop-kick from 35 metres out and directly in front in the 78th minute.

But the attempt sailed wide, with the defending champions doing enough in the final two minutes to cling on and earn another title.