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.

Flanker Jacob Norris storms across the line for Tasman’s eighth try at Lansdowne Park on Friday night. Photo: Shuttersport.

All Blacks call-ups set to impact Mako men

The only cloud on the Tasman rugby horizon after they completed a perfect start to their 2020 Mitre 10 Cup premiership campaign at Lansdowne Park on Friday night is an All Black one.

The Makos 54-21 win over Northland means the defending champs have claimed maximum points from their first two matches. Their potent backline and imposing forwards have proved too powerful for both Counties Manukau and the Taniwha. However the Tasman ranks are about to be thinned with the All Blacks going into camp on Monday in preparation for their forthcoming international fixtures.

After that, the availability of Tasman’s men in black is up to Ian Foster and his fellow selectors.

This situation could involve up to seven Mako men. Definitely Tyrel Lomax, Quinten Strange, Shannon Frizell, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan, who have been named in the initial All Blacks squad, and possibly utility backs David Havili and Leicester Fainga’anuku as the three wise men look to enlarge their squad.

For the Mako management this will undoubtedly be accepted as the price of success. Develop players to the top level and they are bound to be noticed and in demand, that’s how it works. The question is, does Tasman have enough depth to maintain their momentum when the stars go away to play?

Co-head coach Andrew Goodman thinks so.

“There is going to be guys getting more opportunities now with more minutes, so it’s going to be exciting to see how they perform when they are given the opportunity to put their hand up.

“We will obviously welcome our All Black players back with open arms if we get that chance, but we are preparing as if they won’t be available [next weekend].”

There was no denying the All Black contingent’s impact on Friday evening’s game. Reece bagged three tries, Jordan’s silky running repeatedly sliced Northland open, although he kicked more than usual, Lomax was at the core of a formidable scrum and Frizell was simply superb.

However, they were certainly not the only players to shine.

Centre Fetuli Paea just keeps getting better, his fearless running and timing making him a real handful. Havili, Tasman’s man-for-all-positions, was influential in this 2020 debut, Mitch Hunt’s clever kicking and judicious passing set up a couple of tries while halfback Dwayne Polataivao fitted in nicely.

Up front, the forwards excelled at set piece time, providing clean line-out ball plus some clever variations and regularly bullying the Northland scrum. Andrew Makalio’s aggressive approach led the way, while flankers Norris and Hugh Renton were prominent both on attack and defence.

Goodman was generally happy with his side’s effort, despite conceding three tries.

“The start was good … the forwards set a great platform, carried well with good body height and got us go-forward ball which the backs were able to work well off.

“At this time of year we are still striving for that 80-minute performance. At the end of the first half we gave away five penalties in a row which allowed them to get some points before halftime, which we were disappointed with.

“However, the boys addressed that at halftime and came out with a really strong opening to the second half.

“Shannon [Frizell] was a standout … he carried hard all day and was amazing on both sides of the ball. Jacob [Norris] got us some good momentum and it was pleasing to see Braden Stewart and others come on and contribute at the end.”

Replacement halfback Louie Chapman and lock Cameron Suafoa made their debuts tonight, both putting in efforts Goodman was pleased with.

Expect a new-look Mako side to run out in their next game, against Waikato, on Saturday at 2.05pm in Nelson.

It is likely the Mooloo men will also be without some of their stars as the competition returns to its normal, All Blacks-free, appearance.

In some ways the “real” NPC begins next week, and Tasman couldn’t have wished for a better start.

Monu Moli leads out the MBC First XV. Photo: Supplied.

Big game celebrated in style

The Marlborough Boys’ College First XV celebrated their skipper’s milestone match in style on Saturday, disposing of Mid Canterbury Combined 60-12 on the college front field.

Prop Monu Moli played his 50th game for the MBC Falcons, turning in another inspirational performance, and was afterwards presented with a special commemorative cap by his brother, former MBC skipper and All Blacks prop Atu Moli.

MBC head coach Matt MacDougall said, “the game couldn’t have gone any better, Monu played the full 70 minutes and was outstanding”.

Monu’s team mates also came to the party, running in 10 tries and scoring regularly throughout.

Two youngsters caught the coach’s eye. Year 10 student Hugh Robinson made his first start at first five and made a good impression, showing “natural calmness and good distribution skills”.

Also impressing was fullback Cooper Roberts, another under-15 player. “He was a constant menace coming into the line and created several scoring opportunities with his offloading skills.”

Flanker William MacKenzie has had a fine season and turned in another blinder yesterday, creating turnovers and making tackle after tackle.

The team’s victory in the final round robin match was not enough to earn them a home semi final in next week’s Bowl play-offs. Instead they must travel to Nelson for a repeat tussle with Waimea Combined, a team they lost to 34-21 earlier in the season, a “heartbreaking” defeat that still rankles with coach MacDougall.

“Despite the fact we are away from home I’m rapt to get another chance to put the record straight against Waimea,” he said.

The other bowl semifinal sees Timaru BHS host Roncalli.

Although they have ended up in the third echelon of teams after round robin play, MBC have been on the wrong end of some narrow scorelines and have generally been highly-competitive against allcomers, with MacDougall suggesting “it’s good to know we can foot it with the top four sides”.

Scores: Marlborough Boys’ College 60 (Nase Taufa, Viliami Napa’a, Cameron Collins, Jake Pacey, Cooper Roberts, Dom Freeth, Kyren Taumoefolau, Te Ariki Peipi, Tom Hobson 2 tries, Hugh Robinson 3 con, Kyren Taumoefolau 2 con) Mid Canterbury Combined 12. HT: 26-7.

Other results: Nelson 38 St Andrew’s 24; St Bede’s 31 Timaru 24; Christchurch 38 Roncalli 0; Waimea 27 St Thomas 24; Christ’s 15 Shirley 10; Rangiora 70 Lincoln 7.

Semifinals. Cup – Christchurch v Rangiora; St Andrew’s v St Bede’s. Plate – Christ’s v St Thomas; Nelson v Shirley. Bowl – Timaru v Roncalli; MBC v Waimea.

Shannon Frizell claims lineout ball on Saturday evening. Photo: Supplied.

Big men up front pave way for Mako win

Heading into their first match of the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup most of the talk centred on the Makos supercharged back division and the capers they were expected to cut.

However, it was the Tasman forwards who paved the way for their 41-24 victory over Counties Manukau on Saturday evening.

They opened their account with two clinical tries to hooker Andrew Makalio, both scored from five metre lineout drives – not pretty, but pretty effective.

Later, as the Mako slowly but surely tightened their grip on the game, they scored twice more thorough the forwards, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Shannon Frizell dotting down.

Centre Leicester Fainga’anuku chipped in with a long-range effort, but that was just the icing on a cake well and truly baked by the men up front.

The presence of All Blacks Frizell and prop Tyrel Lomax can’t be underestimated, but it was very much a 13-man effort up front.

Lock had been pinpointed as a potential problem area for the Mako, given the absence of outstanding middle-rowers Quinten Strange and Pari Pari Parkinson but the engine room roles were admirably filled by the ever-reliable Alex Ainley and man-of-the-match Cirtikidaveta.

Andrew Goodman, Mako co-head coach, was heartened by the efforts of his big men.

“Te Ahiwaru has been around our environment for three years now. We have been pushing him hard in training and he was outstanding today, getting through 80 minutes of work he can be really proud of.

“All the locks today put their hands up, Alex was awesome with his leadership. He was always just going to have 40 [minutes], then young Moni Ngakuru came on at halftime, got some lineout ball and got into the rhythm of the game, which was cool.”

Goodman also praised the efforts of livewire halfback Finlay Christie, winger Mark Telea and replacement Fetuli Paea, suggesting “the impact he made when he came on was a bit of a game-changer”.

A strength of the Makos previous campaign has been front row depth off the bench and, despite the absence of such stalwarts as Wyatt Crockett and Tim Perry, Goodman felt they again got full value from his low numbers.

“Isi Tu’ungafasi was up against Nepo Laulala at the start and he did a really good job in his first game for us, then two guys who have played club footy all year, Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Sam Matenga, both played well and will get better and better each week. We are happy with the depth we have got there.”

However, of concern to the Mako brains trust will be the fact Counties Manukau were able to score three tries from close range. But, as they have shown in recent times, they will react to that potential weakness and adjust their defence accordingly.

Goodman said his side took some time to get into the game but adapted and reaped the rewards.

“Counties were a much-improved team from last year, they set a really good tempo which we didn’t quite match at the start. Their set piece caught us out a couple of times.

“It was anyone’s game at halftime, but we just talked about the need for us to look after the ball better and build the phases. We thought that if we could string five or six [phases] together they would have some tired defenders and we could take advantage of that.

“Our contestable kicks also worked well when it came to putting pressure on.”

As an opening hit-out, with little time together and seven players new to the Mako involved, there was a lot to like about the Mako performance in Pukekohe.

Next up for the defending premiership champs is a date with Northland in Blenheim on Friday night. The Taniwha always turn up with proud, gritty performances but may be lacking in horsepower against a side with attacking potential all over the paddock.

Tasman 41 (Makalio 2, Cirikidaveta, Faingaanuku, Frizell tries, Hunt 5 cons, 2 pens) Counties Manukau 24 (Leavasa, Papali’I, Taulani tries, Kerr 3 cons, 1 pen)

 

Mako Women

Meanwhile, at Lansdowne Park on Saturday the Tasman women’s team opened their Farah Palmer Cup campaign with a 62-0 loss to Wellington Pride.

The northerners, a division one side, led 36-0 at halftime. It was a rude awakening for the Mako, who have previously played in the second division section.

Coach Mel Bosman said, “now they all know what division one is all about. It was a bit of a shock to the system for some, but they will learn from it and get better.”

Replacement fullback Bethan Manners was player of the day, while flankers Elisha Godsiff and Tamara Silcock, plus hooker Steph Mitchell got special mentions.

On Saturday they play Manawatu in Palmerston North with an 11.35am kick off.

MBC centre Carter Aitken dots down against Otago BHS on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Jones.

MBC under-15 rugby side faced tough rivals

The Marlborough Boys’ College under-15 team finished their 2020 Invitation Tournament on a high with a win in their final match at Lansdowne Park on Thursday.

The three-day tournament involved the host team, plus age group rivals Christchurch BHS, Otago BHS and St Thomas of Canterbury.

After losing 36-7 to a highly-rated CBHS side on Tuesday, then going down 31-15 to Otago BHS the following day, MBC put their game together yesterday to down St Thomas 41-17.

With their three rivals playing together as a team each week in age group competitions, while MBC were chosen from various sides, the home side struggled early on for cohesion, but improved as the tournament went on.

The team management pinpointed three outstanding players.

Midfield back Cooper Roberts scored in two of the three games and was a constant threat with the ball in hand and strong in the defensive line.

First five Hugh Robinson produced an outstanding tactical kicking display across the whole tournament. He organised all of the back attack and steered the team round the park with his leadership and game management skills.

Open side flanker Will Flynn had tackled himself to a standstill by the last day after practically playing three full games in a row against three of the strongest schools in the South Island.

No 8 Jack Burdon popped up in all the right places, making a number of key defensive tackles that saved certain tries. He was an excellent support player and made a number of tackle busts.

 

Results:

Day 1

Lost to Christchurch BHS 36-7 (Half time 14-7) Tries: Archie Dillon. Conversion: Hugh Robinson.

Day 2

Lost to Otago BHS 31-15 (Half time 19-5). Tries: Wayden Smith, Cooper Roberts, Carter Aiken.

Day 3

Beat St Thomas’s of Canterbury 41-17. Tries: Cooper Roberts 2, Kaloa Moala Fotu 2, Wayden Smith, Hugh Robinson, Jack Bennett. Conversions: Hugh Robinson 3.

Outstanding No 8 Viliami Napa’a heads for the tryline and his second touchdown. Photo: Peter Jones.

MBC get job done

The Marlborough Boys’ College First XV got the job done against Roncalli Combined on the college front field on Saturday, but would not be entirely proud of their workmanship.

The South Canterbury-based crew put on a gutsy display, making the home side battle gamely for a 26-5 bonus point victory, although MBC made hard work of it, especially in the first spell.

With several changes to their regular top line-up, the Falcons struggled for continuity and rhythm on attack during the early stages, with the visitors scoring first after 20 minutes.

Five minutes later, MBC No 8 Viliama Napa’a, one of the outstanding figures in the game, burst over from close range, Kyren Taumoefolau converting to give the home side a lead they never relinquished.

A second try to Napa’a, this time a spectacular solo effort from 40m out, widened the home side’s advantage after eight minutes of the second spell, then replacement winger Cooper Roberts, another standout, sliced through to score from a back move.

The introduction of skipper Monu Moli late in the piece lifted the home side and it was the big prop himself who scored MBC’s bonus point try, proving unstoppable from 5m out.

MBC’s loose forward trio of Napa’a, Toby McLeod and William MacKenzie were outstanding, the latter claiming a string of turnovers when the home side were under the pump. Midfielder Jake Pacey and replacement first five Hugh Robinson were others to impress.

Next week MBC play their final round robin game, also at home, against Mid Canterbury Combined.

MBC lie in 11th position on the ladder, aiming for a win next week to push them up to ninth or 10th and a home fixture in the ensuing play-offs.

Scores: MBC 26 (Viliami Napa’a 2, Cooper Roberts, Monu Moli tries, Kyren Taumoefolau 3 con) Roncalli Combined 5 (Angus Jensen try). HT 7-5.

Other scores: St Thomas 31 Shirley 27; Nelson College 48 Lincoln 7; St Bede’s 62 Mid Canterbury 19; Timaru 31 Waimea 11; Christchurch BHS 20 Rangiora 15; St Andrew’s 33 Christ’s College 31.