The Tasman women’s rugby team have earned themselves at least another week of Farah Palmer Cup championship play after getting the better of North Harbour during their quarterfinal in Auckland on Saturday.
The Mako women underlined their improvement this campaign by getting up for a 25-19 win against a side they had lost to first-up in the round-robin series.
Tasman started well, dominating the early exchanges and being reward through an early penalty to first five Hayley Hutana.
However a defensive misread quickly opened the door for the home side, who scored to take a 5-3 lead.
Fullback Bethan Manners replied with a try of her own, Hutana’s conversion opening up a 10-5 advantage before Harbour added a second try and conversion just before halftime to head into the sheds with a 12-10 lead.
The visitors were on the board first in the second spell, winger Rebecca Kersten dotting down. A conversion and penalty to Hutana shot the Mako out to a 20-12 advantage, then Sydnee Wilkins added their third touchdown to push them 13 points ahead.
Harbour weren’t about to lie down though and mounted a late comeback, scoring a converted try with six minutes to go. However, Tasman managed to hang on, despite what head coach Chris Binns described as “a few hair-raising moments”, when the home side threw everything into attack in the final minutes.
Best of the Mako crew were outstanding midfielder Jess Drummond, hard-working lock Courtney Clarke and halfback Jamie Paenga, a late call-up for Pippa Andrews who suffered an eye injury at training and had to withdraw.
Binns said the side had travelled north confident they could get the job done.
“After week one North Harbour were never a team that was going to scare us too much … we felt we had let ourselves down a wee bit when we played them in Blenheim.
“There has been so many learnings for the team between then and now. But until you walk away with the result you are never too sure.”
Their gritty victory means they will play Otago in Dunedin on Saturday in a FPC championship semifinal at Napier. In their previous meeting they lost 58-15 to the southerners.
Binns said that despite the lop-sided scoreline last time they met he was happy to be heading to Dunedin.
“If we can bring some of the physicality we had today then anything is possible – especially in a semi-final. Pressure does funny things to teams.”
Tasman 25 (Bethan Manners, Sydnee Wilkins, Rebecca Kersten tries, Hayley Hutana 2 pen, 2 con) North Harbour 19. HT: 12-10 Harbour.