The Tasman Mako are beginning to look
more and more like the real deal in 2018.
BY PETER JONES [Marlborough App]
A 32-20 bonus point victory over the
previously-unbeaten North Harbour team at Albany tonight has propelled David
Havili’s side to the top of the Mitre 10 Cup table after three rounds.
The Mako mixed some spectacular,
high-tempo rugby, combining off-loads and diligent backing-up, with efficient
set piece play to maintain a slight edge throughout at QBE Stadium.
They led 22-13 at halftime, then
survived a Harbour comeback where the home side closed within two points,
before kicking clear at the end.
The Mako management will be hoping to
see more of All Black squad member Shannon Frizzel this season, the rangy loose
forward starting slowly before demonstrating the class that earned him a black
jersey as the match opened up.
Also welcomed back was halfback Finlay
Christie. He also looked a little rusty at the start, no surprise given his
lengthy lay-off, but soon regained his mojo, passing cleverly, sniping with
ball in hand, backing up effectively and generally making good decisions.
The entire backline appeared more
dangerous throughout. Mitch Hunt, who turned on some fancy footwork and again
kicked well from the tee, Havili, Levi Aumua, Tima Faingaanuku, Solomon
Alaimalo and Will Jordan appeared full of running and invention. Jordan’s try
in the 22nd minute was the product of a superbly-executed move,
the sort that works sweetly on the training ground but rarely comes together on
The forwards did not gave things all
their own way, but by fulltime had won a comfortable points victory. At times
the scrum threatened to completely dominate, then it came under pressure. The
lineout drive was effective, without producing points, while the lineout itself
was generally secure on their own ball.
Jed Brown had another strong game, doing
a lot of the unfashionable work, Ethan Blackadder at his side, while locks
Quinten Strange and Pari Pari Parkinson are becoming pivotal at the heart of
the set pieces.
Tyrel Lomax demonstrated why he is
becoming one of the most talked-about young props on the national scene.
When the Mako played their high-tempo,
high-risk game they looked comfortable, more so than when they opted for a
Long may they continue to employ the
former style. It won’t always come off, but it sure is exciting to watch.
Head coach Leon MacDonald described it
as "a tough old fight, but we got there in the end”.
"I thought we played really well.
We had a couple of calls that would have extended the scoreline [go against us]
and a bit more attention to detail cost us a couple of tries … but we created
plenty and it was good enough for a win.
"I was really played with how we
took control in the second half. Our forwards stepped up and put the screws on.
Mitch Hunt had an outstanding game at 10, using his boot well and getting that
balance between keeping it tight and also using it to width as well.
"Shannon Frizell was a force
tonight … we obviously used him a lot, we wanted to getting our money’s worth
with him having only one week back with us … Levi [Aumua] was also busy in
midfield and gave us good go-forward.
"The forwards in general were
excellent, Tyrel Lomax and the rest of the front row, the way they scrummed and
mauled was brilliant.”
He also praised his side’s handling on a
ground heavy with dew.
Next up is a return trip to the City of
Sails, taking on the unbeaten Auckland next Friday evening. MacDonald is happy
with progress though and said "I think we are moving forward, our
structure and attacking shapes are getting better and better so that’s
Tasman Makos 32 (Will Jordan, Tima
Faingaanuku, Shannon Frizzel, Finlay Christie tries, Mitch Hunt 2 pen, 3 con)
North Harbour 20 (Matt Duffie, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti tries, Gatland 2 pen 2
con). HT 22-13.