Seven days are a long time in sport, especially in a weekly rugby competition.
Going from an error-ridden, ill-disciplined performance against Harbour last Sunday to a clinical effort against Bay of Plenty a week later, Tasman underlined on Sunday how quickly fortunes in our national provincial rugby showpiece can change.
The Mako accounted for a handy Steamers crew 33-7, the final score certainly no indication of the amount of work the home side had to put in to claim the five points which propelled them back to the top of the premiership table.
With Nelson turning on a difficult day to play attractive rugby it was always going to be a tough afternoon for the Mako as they strove to put the Harbour horrors behind them. As they did against Waikato at the same venue a few weeks ago, the home side set up their win with a gritty, defence-orientated effort into the wind in the first half.
Turning with a 12-7 advantage, and aided by a yellow card to Bay of Plenty winger Chase Tiatia, the Mako twisted the screw, both territorially and possession-wise, effectively icing the game with their fourth try in the 53rd minute.
That touchdown, by outstanding loosie Sione Havili after his pack had shunted Bay of Plenty off the ball under their posts, brought great satisfaction to the Mako coaching staff, especially after their set piece woes against Harbour last week.
Co-head coach Andrew Goodman said, “The boys put in a lot of work on our scrummaging every week so it was pleasing to get some reward out of that … especially that pushover try which was great for the big boys who had got through a mountain of work in the first half … defended really well and had some good carries into a strong breeze.”
Goodman was happy with how the team bounced back after their previous performance.
“I’m stoked to get a response … it wasn’t always pretty but you could see the attitude was where it needed to be. There was a lot of improvement in our defense which we have been working on during the week.
“I thought our drivers managed the game really well with some of their kicking.”
He was especially happy with loosies Havili and No 8 Hugh Renton who were strong “on both sides of the ball”. The efforts of the back three, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili and Mark Telea, in fielding high kicks safely and making good decisions was another feature.
“There are still so many improvements we can make as a team, that’s the exciting thing.”
Next up for the Mako is a trip to Eden Park and another meeting with Auckland, who Tasman beat at the semifinal stage of last year’s competition.
“It’s a great place to play and a tough place to get a win. We have only managed that a couple of times in our history,” he added.
The 2020 Mitre 10 Cup is shaping as one of the tightest competitions in recent times, with no teams taking control, in either premiership of championship divisions.
Last year the Tasman Mako quickly asserted their dominance, being tagged favourites from the early stages, this time any team can beat any other on their day.
“There are a lot more championship teams tipping up premiership teams,” said Goodman, “more so than what has happened in recent times. It’s a really great competition.”