Tasman have continued their undefeated start to the National Provincial Championship season, with a 48-29 victory over Northland in an entertaining tryfest at Whangarei.
The Taniwha traded blows with the defending champions through an exhilarating first half that saw seven tries scored, but ultimately couldn't keep pace with the Mako, who pulled away through the final quarter to climb atop the premiership and keep Northland winless.
Starting the second half with a 24-15 deficit, the locals crossed first through captain Jordan Olsen to move within two points of their highly favoured opponents.
But with 20 minutes to play, star Tasman first-five Mitch Hunt sparked a three-try blitz within just eight minutes, as Leicester Fainga'anuku, Timoci Tavatavanawa, then Mark Telea crossed to put the game beyond reach.
Tasman will now return home to host Waikato on Friday, while Northland head to Palmerston North to try to break their duck against Manawatu next Saturday.
Tasman 48 (Leicester Fainga’anuku 2, Mark Telea 2, Jacob Norris, Mitch Hunt, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Shannon Frizell tries; Mitch Hunt 4 conversions) Northland 29 (Sam Nock, Scott Gregory, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Jordan Olsen, Raikabula Momoedonu tries; Rivez Reihana & Noah Cooper conversions). HT: 24-15
Perofeta stands out
Meanwhile, Taranaki consolidated their lead in the NPC championship standings with a 32-26 win over Wellington at Inglewood.
Led by a 22-point haul from standout fullback Stephen Perofeta, the amber-and-blacks led throughout the contest to maintain their undefeated start to their 2021 campaign and beat the Lions for the first time since 2009.
First-five Jayson Potroz managed the game handily, laying on a try and scoring one himself, while his pack - behind sparkplug flanker Tom Florence - dominated at the set-piece and breakdown.
Falling nine points behind, the Lions managed to crawl back into the battle, capitalising on Taranaki captain Teohorangi Walden's sin-binning, with a Vince Aso-constructed try to Pepesana Patafilo.
In the second half, Perofeta quickly gave his side some breathing room with a pair of penalties to restore a 10-point advantage.
With 10 minutes to go, Sam Smith latched onto a Ruben Love chip-kick to cross the chalk and move Wellington within range of an improbable win, but the hosts clinically closed out the final stretch and secured their third consecutive win of the season.
They'll look to continue that momentum against Bay of Plenty in Tauranga next Sunday, while Wellington will try to get back on track against Hawke's Bay.
Taranaki 32 (Stephen Perofeta, Michael Bent, Jayson Potroz tries; Stephen Perofeta conversion, 5 penalties) Wellington 26 (Wes Goosen, Pepesana Patafilo, Sam Smith tries; Ruben Love conversion, Aidan Morgan 3 penalties). HT: 20-16.
Join us at 2pm Sunday for live updates of the Hawke's Bay v Bay of Plenty Ranfurly Shield clash.