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Mako team to play Hawkes Bay named

Their mission is clear. Beat the Hawke’s Bay Magpies at Trafalgar Park tonight and book a home Mitre 10 Cup premiership semifinal.

BY PETER JONES [Marlborough App]

Four points from their final round-robin game will guarantee the Tasman Mako home town support as they bid for a place in their third consecutive NPC final.

However, with one of their long-term goals in sight, a series of untimely injuries have conspired to put the Mako’s depth under late-season pressure.

Following knocks sustained during their 41-27 victory over Otago on Sunday, lock Quinten Strange, open side flanker Jacob Norris and No 8 Taina Fox-Matamua, centre Levi Aumua and skipper David Havili have been ruled out of tonight’s encounter.

On the plus side, veteran lock Alex Ainley, who has been battling injury since the beginning of the campaign, is ready to resume battle, as is experienced No 7 Jed Brown. Mike Curry comes back into the mix and will start in the No 8 role, a position he is familiar with through club play.

The backline has seen a major reshuffle. Finlay Christie regains the starting halfback role, Tim O’Malley will wear the 12 shirt while Solomon Alaimalo, who missed the Otago game, steps back in at centre. Tomas Aoake and Tima Faingaanuku return on the wings with hat-trick hero Will Jordan again at fullback. Isaac Salmon replaces Blair Prinsep in the forward reserves, while Rupena Parkinson joins Jack Grooby and Leicester Faingaanuku as back-up backs.

The side will be led by Wyatt Crockett with Mitch Hunt as vice-captain.

Coach Leon MacDonald said the past few days had been hectic, with a short preparation time and a run of niggling injuries causing uncertainty.

"It’s been a really frantic couple of days. The medical staff have been putting in some big hours and the players have been working hard to get their bodies right.

"But it’s straight back into the firing line with a lot to play for.”

Hawke’s Bay are in a similar position to Tasman, needing a win to cement a home semifinal in the championship division. This makes them a particularly dangerous proposition, particularly when they can boast players as skilled as halfback Brad Weber and winger Jonah Lowe among their ranks.

"They have plenty of threats throughout,” said MacDonald, "they have been exceptional this year, especially through their lineout maul and their dangerous back three.”

If the Mako secure a home semifinal it will be played in Nelson. Should they reach a home final it will be staged in Blenheim.

Tasman: 1 Wyatt Crockett (captain), 2 Andrew Makalio, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 5 Alex Ainley, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 7 Jed Brown, 8 Mike Curry; 9 Finlay Christie, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 11 11 Tima Faingaanuku, 12 Tim O’Malley, 13 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Tomas Aoake, 15 Will Jordan. Substitutes: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Isaac Salmon, 19 John Akauolo-Laula, 20 Braden Stewart, 21 Jack Grooby, 22 Rupena Parkinson, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.

Hawke’s Bay: 1 Jason Long, 2 Kianu Kereru-Symes, 3 Joe Apikotoa, 4 Sam Ulufonua, 5 Mike Allardice, 6 Devan Flanders, 7 Josh Kaifa, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u; 9 Brad Weber, 10 Stacy Ili, 11 Mike Buckley, 12 Danny Toala, 13 Sasa Tofilau, 14 Jonah Lowe, 15 Jerry Taulagi. Substitutes: Pouri Rakete-Stones, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Mark Braidwood, Tom Parsons, Geoff Cridge, Folau Fakatava, Lincoln McClutchie, Mason Emerson.

Premiership table (as at October 11): Auckland 41, Tasman 38, Canterbury 37, Wellington 29, North Harbour 29, Counties Manukau 16, Taranaki 13.