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Auckland is a bridge too far for Mako [Peter Jones]

Auckland is a bridge too far for Mako

By Peter Jones [Marlborough Weekly / Marlborough App]

One pointless trip to Auckland can be dismissed as a “bad day at the office”; a second shocker in the City of Sails represents a disturbing trend for the Tasman Mako.

The defending champs began the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup as competition favourites but, after successive away defeats to North Harbour and Auckland, their odds will be quickly lengthening.

And it’s not just the fact they have lost a couple of games up north, it’s the fashion in which they have been beaten that will have the team’s brains trust scratching their collective heads.

In both matches they have struggled for on-going continuity and cohesion, being comprehensively outplayed for long periods. The disciplined, ruthless edge that marked their 2019 triumph is missing. There is no shortage of effort, in fact at times they appear to be trying too hard, forcing passes and choosing high-risk options rather than building pressure.

A frustrated Mako skipper David Havili said after today’s match, lost 31-10, “we can’t just expect it is going to happen on game day”, perhaps pinpointing a lack of intensity compared with their rivals.

“Our game just comes back down to our mind set and making sure that we turn up on Saturday with the right attitude,” he added.

“It’s pretty tough to swallow … we need to look at ourselves, we can’t leak points like that in this competition or we will just get put away.”

From the opening whistle of today’s match at Coopers Catch Park, temporarily named after a Kaikoura fish and chip shop therefore nominally a home ground for the Mako, the Tasman troops looked listless, especially up front. Auckland’s first two tries stemmed from the irresistible work of their forwards close to the line, Tasman’s goal line defence not up to the mark.

Some sloppy lineout work compounded the issue while the hunger to secure 50/50 ball right across the park was clearly absent, especially in the first half when the damage was done.

Stopping the bleeding in a second spell they won 10-7 will be of little consolation to a proud Mako squad and support staff, who have set particularly high standards in recent times.    

A small consolation for the Mako can be gleaned from last year’s results. In round robin play, Auckland were swamped 40-0 by Tasman, but the northerners turned it around in the semifinal, pushing the Mako all the way during an 18-9 loss in Blenheim.

However, some areas of the Mako game need immediate attention if the heroics of the previous campaign are to be repeated. Tasman are still well-placed for a semifinal position, but with games against the likes of Wellington and Canterbury, both play-off contenders, to come that can certainly not be taken for granted.

Next up for the Mako is a home match against Southland at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, kick off 2.05pm.