The Tasman Mako are into the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final for a second year running.
Tasman will have the chance to defend its title and go back-to-back next Saturday when they take on Auckland at Eden Park.
The Mako booked its berth in the big dance this weekend after a hard-fought 19-10 win over Bay of Plenty in Nelson on Saturday evening.
Mitch Hunt put first points on the board after just three minutes with a relatively easy shot at goal.
Tasman were guilty of forcing the issue with unnecessary offloads early on but reverted to its bread and butter in the 20th minute as Quinten MacDonald scored the game’s opener through an expertly executed rolling maul.
A second soon followed as the powerful Leicester Fainga’anuku was rewarded for his numerous tackle busts in the opening exchanges with a try in the left corner.
A controversial penalty put the Steamers hot on attack and eventually saw Tasman’s Sione Havili sent to the bin for a professional foul.
BOP took immediate advantage of the extra man, Joe Webber weaving his way through the Mako line to get his side in the game.
The try ensured the Steamers would trail by just six at the break.
The visitors introduced plenty of power from the pine in the form of All Black Sevens star Regan Ware and former All Blacks halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Otere Black edged his team three points closer with his first penalty but Hunt responded with his own long-range effort to make it 16-10 with twenty to play.
Tasman also injected fresh legs from the bench to try close out the result, but BOP began to build momentum.
Another crucial play by Fainga’anuku sent Tasman into Bop territory where Hunt would nailed his third penalty to stretch the lead to nine as the clock ticked under seven.
Bay of Plenty fought right until the final whistle but came up just short against the 2019 champions.
After Auckland defeated Waikato earlier in the day, Tasman will now head north in a bid to win consecutive premiership Mako fends off BOP to reach final titles.
Mako co-head coach Andrew Goodman was thrilled to make another final, and a chance to go back-to-back in the premiership.
“There were some good passages there, Bay of Plenty have finished all their recent games very strongly so, in the second half particularly, we used our contestable kicking game to a real advantage.
Goodman was also happy with his side’s ability to adhere to the game plan but suggested their general discipline would have to improve for the final.
Captain David Havili said that although the Mako had lost plenty of seasoned campaigners from last year’s squad, there was still lots of experience in the squad.
“The group that we have now is exceptional in the way that we use them, and we are super excited for next weekend.
It’s pretty special to make the final, especially coming from this area, I’m really stoked to be able to get another opportunity, again.”
The premiership final kicks off on Eden Park at 7.05pm.