NPC: David Havili returns from injury to help Tasman to season-opening win over Otago

  • 04/08/2023

All Black David Havili has made his return from an injury to help Tasman to an NPC season-opening win over Otago at Trafalgar Park.

Havili played 41 minutes of top-level rugby for the first time since May, as the Mako kicked off the 2023 competition with a 27-15 victory.

Macca Springer scores.
Macca Springer scores. Photo credit: Getty Images

The World Cup hopeful looked a class above in the opening exchanges, igniting a Tasman attack that allowed Macca Springer to stroll over after butchering a try just moments before.

Meanwhile, Former All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo's return to New Zealand rugby lasted just 15 minutes, after he was helped off the field with an apparent leg injury.

With Havili pulling the strings, Moana Pasifika stars Timoci Tavatavanawai and Levi Aumu wreaked havoc on the desperate Otago defence.

But Otago held on, and eventually turned the tide and were rewarded through a Sam Gilbert penalty goal that saw Tasman hold a narrow 7-3 halftime lead.

The floodgates would finally open in the second half, with both sides finding success at the end of their attacking sets.

Tasman Alex Nankivell burrowed his way over for another try, after making an initial 50-metre break from inside his own half.

But Otago hit back immediately from the resulting kickoff, with winger Jona Nareki getting up to claim it and Thomas Umaga-Jensen finding Will Tucker on the inside for their first try.

Tasman replacement halfback Noah Hotham made an instant impact from the bench, putting a clever box-kick over the top for NZ under 20s teammate Springer to sprint onto for his try-double.

Like they had done all second half, Otago did hit back again through Jake Te Hiwi, but Tasman first-five Taine Robinson iced the result with another penalty goal.

In other action on Friday, Taranaki opened their campaign with a 37-29 win over Counties Manukau in New Plymouth.

Kini Naholo in action for Taranaki.
Kini Naholo in action for Taranaki. Photo credit: Getty Images

Co-captain Kaylum Boshier led from the front with two tries, before being forced from the field with injury in the second half.

Wing Kini Naholo was also outstanding for the hosts but suffered the same fate as Boshier, departing early due to a shoulder injury.

Taranaki ran in six tries to four, with Jimmy Tupou crossing late for the visitors to secure a bonus point.

Tasman 27 (Springer 2, Nankivell tries; Robinson 3 con, 2 pen) Otago 15 (Tucker, Te Hiwi tries; Gilbert 1 con, 1 pen)

Taranaki 37 (Walden, Boshier 2, Naholo, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Tikoisolomone tries; Perofeta 2 con, pen) Counties Manukau 29 (Kaivelata, Nanai-Seturo, McRobbie, Tupou tries; Hohepa 3 con, pen)