Renwick winger Mesake Bula dives in at the corner to score a try during Saturday’s Awarua Park Rugby 7s tournament. Photo: Peter Jones.

Sevens action proves popular

Although visiting teams picked up the main titles at the inaugural Awarua Park 7s tournament on Saturday, the event was hailed as a “fantastic day of sevens action”.

Laurie McGlone, a member of the Moutere Rugby Club’s organising committee, said they “were really happy with how it went”.

“The number of teams that supported the event was fantastic … we have had plenty of positive comments about how it was run and we plan to make it an annual fixture.

“The standard of footy across all divisions was excellent and it was great to see some players stand out who would otherwise not have been given the opportunity.”

Eighteen teams were involved – six in division one, eight in division two and four in the women’s grade, with Laurie suggesting there is room for more in 2021.

The men’s division one title was won by the slick combination from Marist, who were unbeaten in pool play, beat local side Renwick 29-10 in the semifinal, then downed Kahurangi 24-19 in a thrilling final. Kahurangi beat home team Moutere 33-0 in the other semi.

The other Marlborough-based side involved, Waitohi, downed Wanderers 39-7 in pool play but narrowly missed a place in the semis.

The women’s title was taken out by Waimea, who also won three-from-three in round robin play. They accounted for Riwaka 34-19 in the final.

In men’s division two, Stoke ran away with the title, downing Marist 33-0 in the decider. In the semis Marist beat Valley Stags 27-26 while Stoke downed local team Old Boys 21-7. Two other local sides, Awatere and Moutere, competed in this division but were unable to pick up a win.

Luke Romano wins another lineout at Lansdowne Park on Saturday night. Photo: Shuttersport.

Canterbury turn season around at Lansdowne

Tasman’s uninspiring Mitre 10 Cup premiership display against Canterbury on Saturday may not prove as costly to the Mako play-off hopes as initially thought.

Going into the 29-0 defeat at Lansdowne Park, Tasman, fresh off an away win over Wellington, lay second on the premiership points table, justifiably eying a home semifinal.

At the other end of the table languished Canterbury, an unfamiliar position for the perennial pace-setters, with the threat of relegation looming large.

Teetering above the trapdoor, the Red and Blacks responded by producing the sort of performance that has underlined their previous dominance of the provincial scene.

Their emphatic 29-0 victory at Lansdowne Park on Saturday evening appeared to have assured their participation in the top echelon next year and derailed Tasman’s chances of hosting a semi this season.

However, a combination of upset results in what is quickly turning into the closest premiership battle for many seasons has seen Tasman remain in second position at the end of the round, with Canterbury still equal bottom of the table.

Now, although they face a tricky away match against Otago on Saturday, the Mako at least have their semifinal future in their own hands.

Things were not looking so positive at the final whistle on Saturday though.

Putting their patchy form this season behind them, Canterbury took their frustrations out on a Mako side who undoubtedly knew what was coming, but were unable to match the defensive intensity and clinical finishing that came their way. Their unrelenting work without the ball quickly created hesitation in the Tasman attack, forcing them to chase the game from early stages, rather than build into it.

Given the familiarity of so many of the players through Crusaders connections, it was perhaps no wonder that, at times, it appeared as if Canterbury had read Tasman’s script.

The influence of former All Blacks Luke Romano and Mitchell Drummond cannot be underestimated. Pivotal players when Tasman lost to Canterbury in the 2018 semifinal, they repeated the dose. Romano’s disruptive lineout presence, ability to slow Tasman’s ball down and general work rate proved constant thorns in the home side’s flesh. Drummond continues to haunt his former home town team, pulling all the right strings with coolness, slick passing and clever kicking options.

The impact of the opening try, to Canterbury winger Ngatungane Punivai in the third minute, should not be underestimated.

It not only gave Canterbury the belief that they have been struggling for, it also put the Mako firmly on the back foot from the outset, a situation compounded by early injury concerns.

Mako lock Quinten Strange said while Canterbury, “with their backs to the wall”, played well, some of the damage was self-inflicted.

“We were just one or two percent off tonight, in a few areas of the game we were our own worst enemy. At set piece we weren’t executing … we were throwing those 50-50s a bit much, trying to score off first phases and they had a good plan, a good strategy.

“As we know, if you don’t turn up against Canterbury they are going to punish you.”

And that they did, Saturday’s defeat ending an 11-game winning run at Lansdowne Park, with Tasman’s last defeat in Blenheim coming against Auckland in September 2015.

However, if Tasman’s supporters have discovered anything about their team over recent years, it is their ability to rebound quickly from adversity.

In the age-old cliché, they “have plenty to work on” over the coming week.

No-one could fault their intent and effort on Saturday, but there seemed to be more spring in Canterbury’s step, perhaps a result of being pushed into a corner and facing a previously-unthinkable fate.

The Mako will be looking for the same desperation when they travel to Dunedin.

As Strange suggests, “it’s such a tight competition, whoever turns up on the day is going to win.

“That’s the beauty of this competition … we have to make sure we get the right mindset heading into next weekend.”

Mitre 10 Cup premiership table with one round remaining: Auckland 34, Tasman 29, Waikato 29, Bay of Plenty 26, North Harbour 25, Canterbury 24, Wellington 24.

Tasman flanker Sione Havili was in outstanding form in Porirua. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako forwards tame Lions

The Tasman forward pack answered their doubters in the best possible fashion on Saturday, setting up a commanding 19-3 victory over Wellington in Porirua.

After being dominated up front during the side’s only losses this season, to North Harbour and Auckland, doubts began to surface over the potency of the Mako forwards.

However, after paving the way for a comfortable win over Southland last weekend they stepped up to another level at the weekend, totally outplaying one of the leading premiership side’s packs.

The battle of the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup premiership finalists was expected to be close, especially given their respective records this year.

Interestingly, only five of the 13 Mako forwards named for the decider at Trafalgar Park last year fronted up for Saturday’s rematch – Andrew Makalio, who impressed in his 50th game for the union, the returning Quinten Strange, Sione Havili, who gets better with each outing, Isaac Salmon and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.

In contrast, Wellington fielded eight of their forward mix from the 2019 final.

However it was the visiting side at Jerry Collins Stadium who looked the more powerful, cohesive, organised outfit. Their scrum held the upper hand for most of the match, their lineout was sound despite tricky conditions and both the Mako tries came from unstoppable lineout drives. Allied to that slick set piece work came some bruising defence from the big men, ensuring Wellington’s ball-carriers rarely breached the gain line.

Mako co-head coach Andrew Goodman was “stoked” by his side’s efforts today, especially the forward display.

“That was an important win for our season really,” he said.

When the Mako turned at halftime with an 11-point lead, despite playing with a strong wind at their backs, the game was very much in the balance, but Goodman said his side’s leaders pulled the right strings.

“[The wind] was very gusty and hard to play into, but I felt our nine [Finlay Christie] and 10 [Mitch Hunt] played really well in the second half. However it was the forwards today who laid the platform for that victory … the maul, the scrum, just all the work they had to get through.

“Isaac Salmon, both at scrum time and on defence, was outstanding. A lot of the boys that have been given more of an opportunity this year stood up today. I’m really proud of them.”

Goodman also praised the input of experienced squad members Ethan Blackadder and Strange. “Even when they have been unable to take the field they have been massive for us this year with all the work they have done with the lads, off the field.”

The return of Strange, an All Black-in-waiting, to the field could not have come at a better time for the Mako, his presence an inspiration to his team mates.

“It’s great to have his leadership back,” said Goodman, “he’s driven standards really high during the last couple of weeks when he’s been back on the training pitch so we hope to get a few more minutes from him next week.

The Mako, who briefly returned to the top of the premiership table with their victory, meet cellar-dwellers Canterbury in Blenheim on Saturday, kick off 7.05pm.

David Havili crosses for the first of his two tries on Sunday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako savage Stags in second spell

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.

The Mako camp will be doing some serious soul-searching this week. Photo: Shuttersport.

Auckland is a bridge too far for Mako

One pointless trip to Auckland can be dismissed as a “bad day at the office”; a second shocker in the City of Sails represents a disturbing trend for the Tasman Mako.

The defending champs began the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup as competition favourites but, after successive away defeats to North Harbour and Auckland, their odds will be quickly lengthening.

And it’s not just the fact they have lost a couple of games up north, it’s the fashion in which they have been beaten that will have the team’s brains trust scratching their collective heads.

In both matches they have struggled for on-going continuity and cohesion, being comprehensively outplayed for long periods. The disciplined, ruthless edge that marked their 2019 triumph is missing. There is no shortage of effort, in fact at times they appear to be trying too hard, forcing passes and choosing high-risk options rather than building pressure.

A frustrated Mako skipper David Havili said after Saturday’s match, lost 31-10, “we can’t just expect it is going to happen on game day”, perhaps pinpointing a lack of intensity compared with their rivals.

“Our game just comes back down to our mind set and making sure that we turn up on Saturday with the right attitude,” he added.

“It’s pretty tough to swallow … we need to look at ourselves, we can’t leak points like that in this competition or we will just get put away.”

From the opening whistle of Saturday’s match at Coopers Catch Park, temporarily named after a Kaikoura fish and chip shop therefore nominally a home ground for the Mako, the Tasman troops looked listless, especially up front. Auckland’s first two tries stemmed from the irresistible work of their forwards close to the line, Tasman’s goal line defence not up to the mark.

Some sloppy lineout work compounded the issue while the hunger to secure 50/50 ball right across the park was clearly absent, especially in the first half when the damage was done.

Stopping the bleeding in a second spell they won 10-7 will be of little consolation to a proud Mako squad and support staff, who have set particularly high standards in recent times.

A small consolation for the Mako can be gleaned from last year’s results. In round robin play, Auckland were swamped 40-0 by Tasman, but the northerners turned it around in the semifinal, pushing the Mako all the way during an 18-9 loss in Blenheim.

However, some areas of the Mako game need immediate attention if the heroics of the previous campaign are to be repeated. Tasman are still well-placed for a semifinal position, but with games against the likes of Wellington and Canterbury, both play-off contenders, to come that can certainly not be taken for granted.

Next up for the Mako is a home match against Southland at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, kick off 2.05pm.

Mark Telea dives over for Tasman’s second try at Trafalgar Park on Sunday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako quickly return to winner’s circle 

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.”

Isaac Ross played for three Super Rugby franchises. Photo: Supplied.

Mako lock in former All Black

Former All Blacks lock Isaac Ross has been brought into the Tasman Mako rugby squad for the remainder of their Mitre 10 Cup campaign.

With 2020 All Black Quinten Strange and last year’s standout Pari Pari Parkinson ruled out of contention through injury, plus local back-up options Antonio Shalfoon and Max Hicks also struggling to shake off injuries, Ross was seen as a handy addition to the squad at a crucial time of the season.

The 35-year-old, who turned out on eight occasions for the All Blacks, has been playing with the NTT Communications Shining Arcs side in Japan since 2011 and will add vast experience to a pack that has lost a wealth of senior players from their previous campaign.

Ross followed in the footsteps of his father, Jock Ross – a 1981 All Blacks lock, when he pulled on an All Black jersey for the first time in 2009.

At domestic level Isaac represented Canterbury and has played for the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders at Super Rugby level since his debut in 2007.

He has played 53 games for Canterbury, 23 for the Crusaders, nine for the Highlanders and 11 for the Chiefs, plus 83 for the Shining Arcs.

He joins Alex Ainley, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Mahonri Ngakuru among the Mako locking brigade.

The Tasman Mako were outplayed by an inspired North Harbour combination on Sunday. Photo: Shutterpsort.

Mako lose unbeaten record

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.

Halfback Pippa Andrews battles with the Otago defence. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako women choose to look on the bright side

The Tasman Mako women are off the mark.

After a couple of decent reversals in their opening two Farah Palmer Cup fixtures they bounced back with some points of their own at Trafalgar Park on Saturday.

Although well beaten, 67-24 by a slick Otago Spirit side, the Mako managed four tries to claim a hard-earned competition bonus point.

They began the game slowly, still reeling from an 88-0 loss to Manawatu last week, and were quickly behind 21-0. However they showed admirable spirit to work their way into the game.

Before halftime they had their first try, and their first points of the campaign, hooker Stephani Mitchell barging over from close range to make the score 33-5 at the break.

The Mako conceded a try immediately following the restart but immediately afterwards had their second, this time to skipper and loosehead prop Anna Bradley.

Although the Otago tries kept coming, Tasman notched a third after 60 minutes when Mitchell bagged her brace. This time the conversion from impressive right winger Eve Finlay was successful.

The home side’s final try came tight on fulltime, reserve prop Ashley Ulutupu grabbing a five-pointer to finish the match on a high and pick up a bonus point.

Tasman head coach Mel Bosman said, “there was much more self-belief out there … the message we gave them today was not to be afraid of the unstructured play and to have a crack, and they did, so I am really proud of them.

“They are definitely making progress … they are in a better head space this week.”

She singled out fullback Bethan Manners, flanker and co-captain Tamara Silcock and young prop Alisi Seigafo for special mention, plus Finlay and lock Gina Healey, who broke her nose in the warm-up but played through.

Mel said two heavy opening defeats had been a bitter pill for some of the squad members to swallow but they had handled it well.

“Big defeats like that first up can be hugely soul-destroying for young players but as coaches we have tried to put things in perspective … as to what that actually looks like in the bigger picture.

It’s a new team, it’s a new structure … 88 points against us last week is only one moment in time and we have many more moments ahead of us.”

Next up for the Mako women is a game against Hawke’s Bay in Motueka next weekend.

We are looking forward to that game,” said Mel.

“We are definitely going to build on this one … there is only one way for us and that is to keep moving forward slowly but surely.”

David Havili steps inside Waikato captain Luke Jacobson. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako skipper leads the way

From the outset, the Tasman Mako have been blessed with outstanding leaders.

In recent times, current coaches Andrew Goodman and Shane Christie led various campaigns with calm authority and the ability to inspire those around them with both deeds and words.

Now David Havili has the captain’s role, and what a fine leader he has become.

In today’s Mitre 10 Cup table-topping premiership clash with Waikato his astounding variety of skills were on display.

Losing the toss was probably his only mistake of the afternoon, but it meant his side had to play the first 40 into a strong north-westerly wind.

With the home team under the pump early as the Mooloo men strove to take advantage of the conditions and boss the game it was the skipper who turned the tables, snatching a timely interception and sprinting 70m to score against the run of play.

His second try stretched the Mako lead to 27-5 early in the second spell then, when Waikato scored twice in quick succession to narrow the gap to 10, he popped up once more with more individual brilliance to bag his third and put the issue beyond doubt.

But wasn’t just his tries that caught the eye. His defence was, as always, first class, along with his ability to read play from the back as well as timing passes designed to put others into gaps.

The versatile skipper relished a return to the 15 jersey after slotting into the midfield last week.

“I definitely love playing 15 but it’s good to have that extra string to your bow, playing at 12.”

David said that despite his side holding some handy advantages during the 80 minutes, he never felt they had the game won until the final whistle.

“You never feel that you have cracked them … it was tough playing into that breeze in the first half and we were glad to have that buffer at halftime … but then they came back, like Waikato always do.”

He admitted he would have opted to play with the wind if he had won the toss but suggested [losing the toss] may have worked in Tasman’s favour.

“We went out there with the mindset of carrying the ball … it was tough to exit and thankfully our defence was on today.”

Although Tasman lost four key players to the All Blacks camp this week their replacements stepped up in fine fashion, David quick to point out that they were by no means “new” players – Isaac Salmon, Alex Ainley, Sione Havili and Alex Nankivell bringing a wealth of experience to the mix.

“These guys have been round for a while. Obviously now is their opportunity … it is awesome for us to have guys in the All Blacks, but we treated it as a challenge this week for those guys to step into their shoes and I thought they did that today.”

They certainly did, all four bringing defensive steel to the party and executing their core roles professionally.

Another top performer was young lock Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta who followed up a man-of-the-match effort against Counties with another big shift today.

Jacob Norris, the Mako go-to-guy at lineout time, is becoming increasingly influential, while Andrew Makalio is relishing regular game time and the chance to run in the wide channels, while scoring regular tries on the back of unstoppable lineout drives.

Halfback Dwayne Polataivao kicked well into the breeze while centre Fetuli Paea continues to prove a handful, on both sides of the ball.

The Sparkies, as the Mako bench is known, are providing impact and continuity, with halfback Louie Chapman, flanker Braden Stewart and hooker Quentin MacDonald, who was extremely unlucky not to bag a “welcome back” try, to the fore.

Along with their five tries, it was the suffocating Mako defence that sealed the deal.

Defence coach Shane Christie was pleased with his charges.

“For a team to hold out Waikato, who have been an outstanding attacking team in the first two rounds, the boys should be really proud of themselves … the way we prepared and executed our defence, not for 80 minutes, but man that was a pretty good effort for the majority of the game,” he added.

Next Sunday it is off to Albany and a meeting with former Mako coach Kieran Keane’s North Harbour team. Kick off is 2.05pm.