The Tasman Makos held off a comeback from Hawkes Bay to claim the ITM Cup Championship title, earning promotion to the 2014 Premiership. The 26-25 thriller was one of the matches of the weekend, eclipsing the main final for entertainment value.
Hawkes Bay started well as Ihaia West and Zac Guildford combined to silence the home crowd at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park. Tasman soon levelled things up and looked in control at halftime, before a miraculous late try gave the visitors a final shot at glory.
Young West, whose fantastic play this season has earned him a call up with the Maori All Blacks, wasn’t able to convert Chris Eaton’s late try from the sideline as a thrilling match came to a close.
Earlier Marty Banks’ intercept and 95m sprint had put the hosts in a great position, adding to his sensational season and growing reputation as a game changer.
While West had thrown the vital intercept – that resulted in 5 points for the opposition rather than 7 for his team – he had a chance to redeem himself at the death, but under unbelievable pressure his kick never looked like going over. It was a cruel finish for such a talented young player.
“I feel sorry for Ihaia because those things can either make you or break you, but he is quailty player so he will bounce back,” said Tasman veteran Joe Wheeler post match.
It was a frantic finish to a match that exuded quality, with some outstanding ball handling, support play and on regular occasion, great defence. Tries were also scored by Bryce Heem and Liam Squire for the Makos, and the excellent Brendan O’Connor for the Magpies.