A second half resurgence against Southland at Trafalgar Park eased Tasman up to second place on the Mitre 10 Cup premiership ladder on Sunday.
Waikato sit atop on 27 points with three rounds remaining before the play-offs, but the Mako and Auckland are snapping at their heels on 25 and Wellington are just a point adrift on 24. Tasman have matches against traditional provincial powerhouses Wellington, Canterbury and Otago to come.
On Sunday, they needed to get their campaign back on track after being dominated by Auckland the previous week, but found the early going tough against a Stags side intent on mounting punishing defence and breakdown pressure. Consequently the home side, who had the wind at their backs in the first half, led only 7-3 at the break, before romping away after oranges to win 47-10.
Tasman were their own worst enemy at times, spurning several clear-cut scoring opportunities, a situation they remedied in the second 40.
Co-head coach Clarke Dermody said his side were “a bit more focussed on execution” in the second spell.
“There was a lot of space [in the first half] and the boys were seeing it, but were just rushing things a bit.
“Sometimes when there is heaps of space on the field you rush to get the ball there … when we started building phases and not forcing off-loads the game started to unravel and play out like we thought it would.
“I’m pleased with how we finished and how our guys reacted after halftime.”
Ultimately Tasman bagged seven tries, six of them converted, as the hefty defensive workload required by Southland began to take its toll late in the game.
“Southland are a good team,” said Dermody, “they weren’t going to go away, we had to try and put them away, that’s the pleasing thing.”
No 8 Taina Fox-Matamua, playing his first game for the season, was Tasman’s first half tryscorer, while skipper David Havili, centre Fetuli Paea, flanker Sione Havili and Mitch Hunt dotted down in the second spell. Hunt landed four conversions and Tim O’Malley two.
Asked if his side had needed a confidence boost after last week’s loss, Dermody said the side prepared “pretty much the same” each week.
“Then it just comes down to game day execution … obviously we didn’t quite get that right in Auckland last week and there is some stuff to work on from today so we will do what we always do, pull the game apart and put it back together for Saturday [against Wellington].”
A feature of Sunday’s effort was the debut of schoolboy loose forward star Anton Segner from the bench, while it was a first outing for the season for Sam Moli and Fox-Matamua.
“Anton came on and made a real difference,” said Dermody, “and I was pleased for Sam who is coming back from long-term injury. Stoked to see those young fellas go well.”
Tasman turned out on Sunday in brown-and-white hooped Golden Bay-Motueka jerseys to celebrate 100 years of existence for the sub-union, making it a special occasion for David Havili who represented Golden Bay Motueka in the junior grades, along with his brother, father and grandfather.