Round-robin reversals built Tasman resolve
by Peter Jones [Marlborough Weekly / Marlborough App]
If last year’s Mitre 10
premiership clean sweep represented a “coming-of-age” for top of the south
rugby, Saturday’s effort at Eden Park underlined Tasman’s arrival as
a New Zealand provincial rugby powerhouse.
Going back-to-back with a
settled squad is one thing, having to almost totally re-shape your forward
pack, then deal with a string of injuries to key players, including another
early in the final, is quite another.
2020 Mako squad epitomise the word ‘resilience’. The seeds of their
13-12 victory over Auckland were sewn during a testing series of round robin
matches. Heavy losses to Auckland, North Harbour and Canterbury sent them back
to the drawing board.???
Tasman’s ability to learn
from their poor performances, remedy the problems and improve at the business
end of the season was integral to their effort at Eden Park.
For that, their team
leaders, coaches and management must take a huge amount of credit.
Co-head coach Andrew
Goodman put their win down to “a lot of hard work and a lot of belief”.
“We have flown under the radar
a bit this season. Not many people were expecting that result but we
had belief … we just chipped away in the background and knew we had a
performance in us that could win us back-to-back titles.
“That defensive block
towards the end when Auckland were hard on attack just sums up what the jersey
means to the boys, a lot of heart went into that block.
“I’m just really stoked for
everyone that has been involved this season. The whole time and our leadership
group has been outstanding.
“There are also a lot of
guys that aren’t here to celebrate tonight with us but we will be
having a good connection with them over the next few days because there have
been some massive contributions off the field.”
Losing a key player such as
playmaker Mitch Hunt early in the decider with concussion may have rattled
lesser teams, but the Mako covered his absence with aplomb.
“Tim [O’Malley] and Dave
[Havili] stepped up and took on some extra work, including the goalkicking,”
“I’m so proud of Tim, he has
only started in the last three weeks but he is a guy that epitomises
our squad … even when he hasn’t been getting regular starts he works
away and is a great team man, puts the team first.
“Quentin [MacDonald] is
another … he’s just put his hand up over the last two weeks and led the way.
It’s great that we can call on a guy of that experience.”
While only nine players
remained from the team that contested last year’s final, Goodman said it was
the calibre of those players that proved so vital.
“At the core of that group
is Dave Havili, Mitch Hunt, Quin Strange, Alex Nankivell,
Andrew Makalio and Fin Christie … our leadership group have been
outstanding for us every week. They have driven the standards … I am just so
proud of not only them but the whole squad."??
When asked to compare last
year’s triumph with Saturday’s effort, Goodman noted, “It was pure
happiness to win it the first time, that will hold a very special place in my
heart, but this is really satisfying.
“It has been a lot of hard
work and we have learned some hard lessons on the way … the main thing is that
the boys have kept believing - as a coaching group, as a management group and
as a playing group.
“We have learned from those
occasions when we didn’t perform to our best and tonight we put in a
performance that I thought was worthy of a win. We probably created a few more
scoring opportunities [than Auckland].”
Goodman also took time to
praise his fellow coaches.
“Shane Christie has been a
magician with our defence over the last few years, he’s done an amazing job.
And the work Clarke Dermody, in his last year with us, has done with our
young forward pack has had a lot to do with the result today.”??
?Tasman’s victory with a
vastly different squad this year shows there is depth in the region, while
Goodman said that the players who have come from elsewhere to join the union
have relished the experience.
“You talk to a guy like
Mark Telea … now he’s a Mako man for life, he understands
what it is to be a Mako man. He sees what we do every day … the
players that have come to the Mako, whether it be for a year or more, they
just love the place, Nelson and Blenheim, they love the team and how we operate
and the footy we play.
“That’s a credit to the boys
that have grown up in the region. It shows the passion they have for the team
and it’s something special,” Goodman added.
Second win even more sweet for TRU Chairman
By Peter Jones
There is a saying in sport
that goes, “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best”.
Well, in provincial rugby
terms it doesn’t come much tougher than taking on Auckland at
Fortress Eden Park.
The home side, national
provincial champion on 17 occasions, were top qualifiers for the final and
boasted a 31-10 victory over the Mako the last time the sides met.
In front of a home crowd,
who were handed free admission, Saturday’s Mitre 10 Cup
premiership decider was meant to be a step to far for the gritty
southerners, champions in 2019 with a vastly-different squad.
But someone forgot to tell
David Havili’s 2020 crew, who came away with a nail-biting 13-12
As a delighted Tasman Rugby
Union chairman Wayne Young pointed out, “we weren’t meant to do that – it
wasn’t in the script”.
“I think a lot of impartial
rugby people were of the opinion that the home ground advantage would do it for
Auckland, even if it was tight.”
Young admitted to being
“extremely stressed out” during the final stages of the match, especially when
he was called out by one of the Eden Park staff to leave his seat during the
hectic final minutes to take the lift down to ground level in preparation for
the trophy presentations.
“We got in the lift with
four minutes to go and I said that we would know who has won by the cheering of
the crowd, a big roar will mean Auckland have got it.
“When I got on the field and
we had won it was a totally different feeling to last year.
“Last year was so good but I
would almost personally put this ahead of it … to me this one is more special.
“The coaching staff and
management have created that old fashioned togetherness and passion that got
them over the line … we have done it this season without rock stars,
just grit and determination.”