When you win by 21 points and sit on top
of the Mitre 10 Cup points table it’s hard to be too critical of your
But I’m sure the Tasman Mako camp will
be looking harshly at some of their work, despite the 45-24 scoreline against
Southland at Lansdowne Park today.
While nothing can be taken away from a
Stags side that tackled their hearts out, the Mako created enough scoring
opportunities to run in at least another four or five tries. They pulled off
some new moves, which cleverly created space, only for the final pass or
cleanout to let them down on many occasions.
Their defence also leaked four tries,
including two in the final 10 minutes, mirroring the Canterbury game last week
and taking the gloss off a seven-try bonus point effort.
However, on a balmy Sunday in Blenheim,
the positives far outweighed the negatives for the home side.
Both prop Ryan Coxon and first five Tim
O’Malley, given their first starting opportunity of the season, impressed.
Coxon anchored a dominant scrum and carried well, while O’Malley showed good
game sense in the 10 jersey and defended strongly.
The day’s Mako debutant, No 8 Isaiah
Miller, also had a day to remember, driving the defensive wall back with ball
in hand and hitting hard without it.
Ethan Blackadder was again a standout
forward, working equally effectively in defence and attack. David Havili showed
the benefit of his experience with a strong showing in midfield, while Solomon
Alaimalo and Will Jordan were ever-dangerous in broken play, Jordan’s last-gasp
individual try a particularly classy effort to send the fans home happy.
Young locks Quinten Strange and Pari
Pari Parkinson continue to impress, carrying out their core roles superbly as
well as offering clever touches with ball in hand.
With their set pieces operating well,
the Mako had a solid platform to base their game on. However, the breakdown
intensity and accuracy that had served them so well against Canterbury was
absent for long periods.
After scoring the first try off a
forward drive, the Mako leaked two touchdowns to a gutsy opponent who were able
to make the most of late offloads. Two tries late in the first spell ensured
the home side led at the break, but it was far from the opening 40 the Mako
Head coach Leon MacDonald said the
message was clear at halftime, "we just weren’t taking care of the stuff
we had talked about doing … we were letting them win the race to the breakdown
and coming second there. The players put it on themselves to tidy that area up
and I thought we did a better job in the second half but it was disappointing
to lose those little battles in the first half and it kept them right in the
The Mako management went to their bench
early in the second spell with, as MacDonald explained, a two-fold objective.
"We need to manage the minutes of
some of the critical players, such as David Havili who is coming off a big load
and is in a physical position, especially the way he plays it.
"Plus there are the other guys who
need game time. We need to have a strong squad, not just a strong XV, so it is
really important to get the players 16 through to 23 out there as well.”
The concession of tries late in the game
was a disappointment. "We talked a lot about playing the whole 80 minutes
this week and we definitely didn’t do that,” said MacDonald.
"We were on our heels defensively
at time – not pushing forward. Whether that was fatigue or just players
switching off, we’ll have to work that one out.”
While the Mako will be more than happy
to bank five points today, especially since they were winless at the same stage
last year, they will be under no illusions as to what lies ahead.
While their performance could hardly be
termed a "wake-up call” it is a timely reminder that every team in the
competition is capable of punishing you if you drop your standards.
Next up for the Mako is a Saturday
evening showdown in Albany with fellow table-toppers North Harbour, a team
Tasman have traditionally struggled against.
"We are not good enough to turn up
and bully teams, we have to bring our A game every week,” warned MacDonald.
"There’s a bit of learning there for some guys … you have to get the
preparation right off the field each week otherwise you will get second on it.”
Tasman 45 (Tries: Will Jordan 2, Andrew Makalio, Solomon Alaimalo, Quinten Strange, Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili; Con: Tim O'Malley 4, Mitch Hunt) v Southland 24 (Tries: Tony Lamborn, Flynn Thomas, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Rory van Vugt; Con: James Wilson 2). HT 19-12
By PETER JONES [Marlborough App]