The Mako headed into the encounter as favourites after finishing the regular season undefeated, leading them to a semi-final clash against Auckland last week, of which they came away as 18-9 victors.
Wellington, on the other hand, came into the knockout stages as the competition’s second-seeded team, and reached the final after dispatching 14-time champions Canterbury 30-19 in Wellington last Saturday.
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It took his opposite Jackson Garden-Bachop three attempts in the ensuing eight minutes to finally land a successful kick at goal, but a burst through the Lions’ defence by electric wing Will Jordan killed any momentum just moments later.
Hunt and Garden-Bachop went on to exchange further eight points from the boot between them, but a 23rd minute try to David Havili following an error from the re-start by Vince Aso extended Tasman’s lead by 23-6.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 26, 2019
A Garden-Bachop penalty four minutes later was followed by an Alex Fidow try on the half-hour mark, which came after some good continuity from the Wellington forward pack deep inside Mako territory.
That left the half-time score at 23-14 in favour of the hosts, but a penalty to Hunt 10 minutes pushed the buffer out by a further three points.
What followed was a tense period of play which lasted for more than 25 minutes, as both sides struggled for break each other’s defence with both side’s title hopes on the line.
Two missed shots at goal by Hunt and long-range specialist Havili added to the drama, and with time ticking away, the desperation shown by Wellington to salvage a try and close the gap on the scoreboard became more and more evident.
However, a runaway try scored by Jordan on the back of a handling error by Wellington captain Du’Plessis Kirifi with two minutes to play killed off any hope of a late Lions comeback, and in doing so, the Mako etched their name into New Zealand provincial rugby history for the first time.
Tasman 31 (Tries to Will Jordan (2), David Havili; 2 conversions, 4 penalties to Mitch Hunt)
Wellington 14 (Try to Alex Fidow; 3 penalties to Jackson Garden-Bachop)
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