There’s another reason, apart from chronological order, why the low numbers are written first on a team sheet. Because, generally, their performance dictates the outcome of a match.
And so it was at Albany on Sunday as the Mako, unbeaten in their previous 15 games, had their fins lowered 40-24 by an inspired North Harbour combination.
The damage began up front, Harbour’s hefty pack taking control at scrum time, which created a steady flow of penalties and ultimately two yellow cards. The northerners also competed willingly at the breakdown, throwing the Mako off their stride and ensuring their ball was either laboured or rushed.
Tasman were haunted by the ghost of seasons’ past, namely former coach Kieran Keane, a man who relishes the underdog tag.
After a loss to lowly Southland last weekend, Harbour’s competitive fires would have been fuelled, with Keane stoking the flames all week long. His troops demonstrated desperation and excitement all afternoon, usually the hallmark of a Mako performance.
Even more concerning from a Tasman standpoint was their discipline, with referee Nick Briant whistling 20 penalties against them. That statistic, and the fact the only time the Mako were able to build pressure and create tries, apart from two timely interceptions, was in the final minutes, will be a subject of much conversation at Tasman training this week.
Co-head coach Andrew Goodman was straight to the point when asked where the problem lay.
“Well, [giving away] 20 penalties and with your set piece under as much pressure as it was out there, it’s always going to be a hard afternoon … especially when you give a quality team like Harbour that many opportunities inside our own half.
“We knew they were going to come hard at the breakdown. When we got down to 13 men we actually did well to get a try and just trail by two, then when we came back on with our full 15 we just struggled to find our shape.
“Full credit to Harbour, they deserved to win.”
Tasman’s scrum issues are in stark contrast last year’s efforts when they were often the team creating pressure at scrum time, winning penalties and building momentum through the set piece.
However the loss of such tight five powerhouses as Wyatt Crockett, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax, Atu Moli, Quinten Strange and Pari Pari Parkinson has throw the onus back on a new combination and today’s effort suggests there is still some work to be done.
Goodman said there was no problem with the side’s preparation this week. “The boys prepared and were ready for it as well as they could … we had a good training week and the mindset was good … it’s just one of those things, we got out-performed on the day.”
He had praise for his opposite head coach, having played under Keane in days gone by.
“He’s a smart coach and we have huge respect for KK as a person and a coach … congratulations to him and his team on their win,” he added.
With their long unbeaten record abruptly ended, the Mako will quickly turn their attention to their next clash, against Bay of Plenty in Nelson on Sunday.
Goodman said, “We’ll have a good, honest review and make sure we bounce back next week. We will have a look at what we do when teams put us under pressure, how we get back on top of the game.
“Every game you have to be right up there or this sort of result will happen, but the great thing about this squad is our fine young leadership group who will make sure we have an honest review and we look forward to getting back on Trafalgar Park … I’m sure there will be some good excitement around having an awesome response next week.”
If, as Tasman skipper David Havili suggested, “[the defeat] was just one bump in the road”, how quickly the Mako can get back into the fast lane will decide whether they are truly premiership material.
Meanwhile, in Motueka on Sunday, the Tasman Mako women slid to their fourth consecutive defeat, beaten 62-5 by Hawke’s Bay in the Farah Palmer Cup clash.
At halftime the visitors led 19-0 but the floodgates opened in the second spell. Pippa Andrews scored a consolation try for Tasman.
The women’s final game is away against Canterbury on October 17.