Shane Christie couldn’t bear to watch as Ihaia West lined up his 80th minute conversion. Had the kick gone over, Hawke’s Bay would have snatched the ITM Cup Championship in the most dramatic fashion.
With thousands of East Stand spectators shouting in the hope it would put him off, Ihaia’s potential match winner had gone wayward. The Tasman Makos had done it. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but it was the most important. And while his team-mates jumped around in celebration, the Tasman captain quietly walked back to halfway. When asked what the result meant to him, Shane said “everything mate” but still appeared like the win had yet to sink in.
Looking at the statistics, the game should have been won by Hawke’s Bay. But Tasman were clinical when they needed to be, and even though the half-time lead of 23-10 was closed up to 26-25. Shane says “it just wouldn’t have been right” if the Magpies had stolen the victory at the death. “I never doubted that we would win but I didn’t think it would be that close,” he says. “This is a pretty proud moment for me and my family. It’s a privilege to be the captain of this team and I just want to do the best I can.”
Having played in front of two mediocre crowds in Blenheim over the past fortnight, Nelson’s supporters arrived in force for the biggest provincial game to played on our soil and Shane says it means more to get the win here. “The community got right behind us and we were lucky we came away with the win.”
Tom Marshall echoed his captain’s comments and says it was great winning in front of a large Nelson crowd, estimated to be 6000. “It’s everything that we ever wanted since the Makos had started,” he says. “You look around and the whole region, they’re all proud of you. The boys worked so hard. It was an ugly win, but it was probably a fitting one.”
Playing in the Premiership will be a tough task for Tasman, who until this season has been an underperforming side across all ITM Cup formats.