The Tasman Mako laid down a marker ahead of Saturday’s opening Mitre 10 Cup match against Wellington in Blenheim when they put 50 points on Ranfurly Shield holders Otago in Nelson on Friday.
Coaches and players will tell you that pre-season results are of little consequence, but it’s hard to disregard the Mako’s emphatic statement as they ran in eight tries in trying conditions to win 54-19.
Rain fell shortly after kick-off at Trafalgar Park and remained throughout the first half, but didn’t deter the Mako from playing enterprising footy.
However, it was Otago who opened the scoring through captain Dylan Nel as the Mako made a number of early handling errors while adapting to the conditions.
It took until the 20th minute for Tasman to get on the board when skipper David Havili broke the line and linked with Crusaders teammate Will Jordan for the home side’s first try.
The Mako added a second soon after when Levi Aumua snapped up a loose pass and again found the ever-present Jordan looming on the inside.
Skipper Havili was warned for repeated infringements from his side as Otago prop Aki Seiuli powered his way over the chalk to bring his side within two.
Tasman’s response was immediate, Leicester Fainganuuku finding himself in space on the left flank following some slick hands from the insides and proving to fast and strong for the Otago cover.
Andrew Makalio made it four for the hosts just before the break and Mitch Hunt continued his perfect night with the boot as Tasman went out to a 28-12 half-time lead.
Finlay Christie, Wyatt Crockett, Liam Squire, Blair Prinsep, Hugh Roach, Tim O’Malley, Jamie Spowart, Sione Havili and Tima Fainganuuku were all introduced after oranges, underlining the strength in depth the Mako have been building.
While the rain stopped, so did the momentum as tensions threatened to boil over early in the second.
However, Squire soon made his impact in typical fashion, ranging out on the right wing in support of Tima Faingaanuku as Tasman stretched its lead to 25.
Tasman cleared the pine with Isaiah Miller and Fetui Paea entering the fray but by then fluidity was hard to find.
The home side bagged their sixth try when O’Malley kicked to the wing, finding Leicester Faingaanuku in acres of space.
The winger simply had to catch the ball and ground it for his second as the result was well and truly assured.
Replacement hooker Roach, a former Waratah, stretched the advantage with the Mako pack again proving too powerful close to the line as Tasman neared its half century.
Just as Tasman looked set to bring up 50, winger Taylor Haugh swooped on a Christie error and sprinted 80m for a late consolation.
However, the Mako had the final say as Alex Nankivell ran a superb line off O’Malley to seal a dominant win.
Halfback Declan Smith said that after putting in some hard yakka at training, he felt Tasman fully deserved the win.
“We have all come from different areas from the country and the boy did a great job tonight.”
However, he added that the side had plenty of lessons to learn before tackling the Lions at Lansdowne, kick off 2.05pm.
“We will be back in the classroom on Monday and figure out what we need to do before next Saturday,” said the young Welshman.
Tasman 54 (Will Jordan 2, Leicester Faingaanuku 2, Andrew Makalio, Liam Squire, Hugh Roach, Alex Nankivell tries, Mitch Hunt 5 con, Tim O’Malley 2 con) Otago 19 (Dylan Nel, Aki Seiuli, Taylor Haugh tries, Ioane con, Haugh con). HT: 28-12