Mitre 10 Cup: Tasman edge Wellington to snatch premiership lead

Tasman have moved to the top of the Mitre 10 Cup premiership, with a clinical 28-22 road win over Wellington.

Replacement lock John Akau-ola-Laula's try with 13 minutes left proved the matchwinner, but the Mako had to withstand a determined finish from their rivals over the closing minutes, as Wellington closed to within a converted try of victory.

Both sides battled out a closefought opening half and were locked at 10-10 approaching the break, until Tasman first-five Mitch Hunt slotted a penalty to take a lead into the locker room.

Within seconds of returning to the park, wing Solomon Alaimalo stormed across for a try that really swung momentum the visitors' way. When flanker Jacob Norris scored next, the margin was 13 points and Wellington faced a massive challenge overhauling that deficit in windy conditions that made goal-kicking difficult.

To their credit, the home side did come back - skipper Galu Taufale responded with a try, converted by Jackson Garden-Bachop, that brought the contest close again.

Akau-ola-Laula stormed over for the crucial try, but when replacement Thomas Umaga-Jensen scrambled across in the corner, Wellington still had a shot.

Garden-Bachop missed the side-line conversion and the Lions could not find the game-winning try over the final five minutes.

"I'm rally proud of the boys and the way they stuck out the last 20 minutes," reflected Tasman captain David Havili. "The bench came on and really lifted us.

"They're a bloody good side and I'm so glad we kept them out.

"It's not easy to break the line in this Mitre 10 Cup, so we just built phases and slowly broke them down."

The result edges Tasman past Auckland atop the premiership standings, albeit with an extra game under their belts. The blue-and-whites will make up that fixture with a doubleheader final round in two weeks.

The Mako travel to Dunedin to face Otago next Sunday, while Wellington host the Aucklanders on Thursday.  

Tasman 28 (Jacob Norris, Finlay Christie, Solomon Alaimalo & John Akau-ola-Laula tries; Mitch Hunt two conversions & penalty) Wellington 22 (Xavier Numia, Galu Taufale & Thomas Umaga-Jensen tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop two conversions & penalty)

More to come

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