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Taranaki win 2014 ITM Cup Premiership

Taranaki have won their first ITM Cup title 36-32 with a big game performance from kicker Codey Rei in front of a rapturous home crowd.

Rei's haul of five penalties and three conversions was essentially the clincher as his opposite Marty Banks duffed three penalty shots.

Charlie Ngatai was the key to the highlight plays with an opportunistic double but their defence and focus on the Tasman threats throughout the side was the difference.

Worthy finalists Tasman threw everything into the match and at one point threatened to steal the show that has seen unprecedented fervour in the region.

Tasman couldn't even get their hands on the ball early and faced a 6-0 lead in as many minutes. Whilst tempers flared, the Naki kept to their game plan, Jimmy Cowan doing his best and worst to disrupt it.

It was quarter of an hour before Tasman got going and they couldn't be contained, Keiron Fonotia the man with the ball after the final crunching run.

The noisy crowd were hushed and as Blade Thompson's last minute replacement Iopu Iopu-Aso limped off for the night, the New Plymouth party experienced an awkward silence.

The unwanted guests made themselves even more comfortable running roughshod for a period soon after that had the Naki scrambling to clean up.

Chris Smylie's last ditch effort to snuff out a sure thing was a local folklore moment and the try that followed would be hard to forget as well.

Charlie Ngatai's break looked set to make it a fourteen point play, the hustling defence just catching him, but Tasman couldn't keep up with Rhys Marshall whose quick tap from the ensuing penalty beat everyone.

Just as the half looked to be back in the Naki hands, Marty Banks narrowed the score only for a 40th minute infringement to make a 16-10 Taranaki lead.

Standout attacker of the night Ngatai was in the right place at the right time as he strolled in straight after the restart and at 23-10, the crowd had good reason to get raucous again.

The Makos were far from done but couldn't finish like their counterparts, half breaks at least turning into penalty attempts for Banks.

Unfortunately he missed two of the three.

Moments were making the final and for all the Mako endeavour and constructive play, the locals made every one count.

Ngatai once again was the man of those moments as his intercept try all but summed up the teams' nights.

Another Rei penalty opened a 20 point buffer, his contribution to that point a perfect seven from seven with a quarter of the game left.

Before everyone in amber and black got teary-eyed in nostalgia, Billy Guyton dived over as Tasman changed it up and went up the middle. The Naki had the backline covered for the most part and it was smart leadership.

33-20 with 15 minutes left was approaching finger nail time, Peter Samu scoring under the posts in the 72nd minute started the cuticle chewing.

As innocuous as penalties can be, Tasman chasers were too anxious to get upfield, gifting a death-knell three points to Rei who couldn't miss if he tried.

Tasman had the five lotto numbers but missed out on the last, Taranaki the new champions, seeing out the last five minutes with some tenacious tackling, letting Guyton in for a consolation.

In the end, Rei's cool boot sealed the history making victory for the Naki region.

Taranaki 36 (R.Marshall, C.Ngatai 2 tries; C.Rei 5 pens; 3 cons)

Tasman 32 (K.Fonoti, B.Guyton 2, P.Samu tries; M.Banks 3 cons; 2 pens)

HT: 16-10

In a provincial game for the ages, Taranaki came out on top. See all the highlights here. Source: SKY


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