Canterbury draw first blood in warm-up match

Halfback Finlay Christie provided some second half spark for Tasman in Hanmer on Saturday. Photo: Shuttersport. 

Tasman have enjoyed some torrid NPC rugby battles with Canterbury in recent times and Saturday’s pre-season encounter in Hanmer was no exception.

The Mako went down 33-24, letting the game slip away in the final stages after leading 19-17 with 15 minutes to play.

Despite finishing on the wrong side of the scoreline, head coach Andrew Goodman was pleased with the hit-out.

“There were some good periods of play from both sides and we both got through injury-free, which is always nice for this time of the year.”

Goodman said the game was a relatively even encounter until the final quarter when Canterbury “ran away with it a bit”.

“Throughout the game there was periods when they were in control, then we were … we both put some good phases together so there will be some good stuff to watch and review for the boys on Monday.

“There are things we have to get better at obviously, but other stuff we have been working on worked well for us today  … while you always want to win, there are no points for pre-season so we will concentrate now on getting better for next week.”

Among the Mako players to shine were both No 7s, Braden Stewart in the first half and Anty Burnett in the second.

“They were outstanding”, said Goodman. “Braden was strong over the ball and when Anty came on he made a good impact as well. They both put their hands up and played well.”

He also praised young lock Te Ahiwaru Citikidaveta who “put a good shift in” for 80 minutes, halfback Finlay Christie who “came on and sped the game up for us”, and new hooker Hugh Roach who added plenty of energy.

All four of the Mako’s Super Rugby players, Christie, Quin Strange, Levi Aumua and Leicester Faingaanuku saw some game time, as did each member of the squad.

“Everyone got at least 25-30 [minutes] … there has been a lot of hard work going in, especially from the club guys, going back and forth over the hill in amongst their own work schedules. We are really proud of the effort that has gone into the preparation for this game and the performance they put on the field.”

While the scrum was a messy area of the game, both sides struggling to adapt to new engagement laws, Goodman said combinations were generally sound, especially in the early stages.

Canterbury fronted with a strong squad in Hanmer, also fielding several Super players, including Tim Bateman, Mitchell Drummond, Luke Whitelock, Brett Cameron and Siate Tokalahi, and they provided a timely test for a Tasman side with high hopes of finishing in the top ranks of the NPC again this season.

On Friday the Mako meet Otago in Nelson, their final hit-out before opening their Mitre 10 Cup campaign against Wellington in Blenheim on August 10. Goodman said that match would provide a good chance to “reintroduce” the squad’s Super Rugby and NZ Maori players who have had a break since that competition ended.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing everyone again, and we can start off with a full squad, which will be awesome.”

Scores: Canterbury 33 Tasman 24 (Sione Havili, Ryan Coxon, Finlay Christie, Anty Burnett tries, Tim O’Malley 2 con). HT: 14-5 Canterbury.

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