Wyatt Crockett led the charge from the bench, scoring a vital second-half try. Photo: Shuttersport.

Tasman’s ‘sparkies’ ignite second half revival

They call them the “Sparkies”.

These are the Tasman bench players whose role it is to come onto the paddock, usually around the 60-minute mark, and add spark to the Mako’s game.

They are a vital part of the team’s winning equation, especially when the starting XV are struggling to seize control of proceedings, as was the case in Hamilton on Saturday before they pulled away for a 35-26 victory.

The late-game impact of bench players Wyatt Crockett, Isaac Salmon, Finlay Christie, Leicester Faingaanuku, Sione Havili, Sam Moli, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Fetuli Paea allowed the Mako to not only retain the level of intensity they had created since halftime, but also to raise it.

Their part in getting the Mako across the line for the seventh time this season is not lost on co-head coach Andrew Goodman, who watched the game from his Nelson home, as he waits for his wife to give birth.

“The bench players have been bringing a bit of spark coming into the game for the last two weeks – the boys that came on really brought some energy with them and helped kick that last 20 minutes off well.”

While the ‘Sparkies’ undoubtedly played their part, some of the guys who trotted out at the start were equally outstanding, namely man-of-the-match Jordan Taufua, hooker Hugh Roach, lock Quinten Strange, Ethan Blackadder, the mulit-talented David Havili, Alex Nankivell and Will Jordan.

Goodman said while Tasman were not at their best in the first 40 minutes, Waikato had played well.

“They were right up for it with it being Dwayne Sweeney’s 100th game as well but we made our own misfortune.

“Just the discipline thing again … there was a few offside penalties and a couple at the breakdown, our set piece defence probably wasn’t up to standard either … but again the boys showed some real grit and character in the second half to come back out with five points.

“However, we need to set the intensity [of the game], not try to match it later in the game.”

Akin to a boxer in a title fight, Tasman enjoyed a relatively smooth passage through the first few rounds before having to dig deep to take the points during stand-up stoushes over the last two rounds.

Goodman is adamant that experience will benefit his charges as they near the business end of the Mitre 10 Cup season.

“It’s great for our squad that we can do that … in past years we may not have come out on top of those games but we have showed good composure, we turned things around well, held onto the ball and when we managed to put some phases together we played some great football and managed to score some good tries.”

It was perhaps fitting that the game-clinching try was scored by reserve prop Wyatt Crockett, who has been at the heart of his side’s second half resurgences.

“How good was that?” asked the Mako coach. “Crocky has been invaluable to the squad on and off the field, he’s great to have around.”

A first half injury to Mako first five Tim O’Malley, with first-choice No 10 Mitch Hunt already on the injured list, had the potential to cause some issues but skipper David Havili calmly slotted into the playmaker’s role.

“Dave’s really comfortable in there. He’s got a great skill set, a good catch-pass and you saw today how accomplished he is as a goal-kicker … it’s great to know he can do a job like that.”

With just six days to prepare for the arrival of defending champions Auckland in Nelson, it was back to work for the Mako early this week.

With every opponent now lifting their game in a bid to knock the Mako off the top of the NPC pedestal, and the injury toll mounting, things will only get tougher.

Just as well the “Sparkies” are ready, willing and waiting.

Hayley Hutana scored a try, conversion and penalty for Tasman in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Tasman women well beaten

A final quarter meltdown dented a strong performance from the Tasman women’s rugby team who were beaten 58-15 by Otago Spirit in their Farah Palmer Cup match in Oamaru on Saturday.

The Mako turned in a solid first half, after which they trailed 15-10 against the unbeaten southerners. A try to midfielder Jess Drummond, plus a conversion to Hayley Hutana kept Tasman well in touch at the break.

Coach Chris Binns said his side had dominated for long periods of the first 40, especially at scrum time, but indecision was responsible for a couple of the home side’s first half tries.

Otago scored again immediately after halftime, but a touchdown to Hutana ensured Tasman were still in reach, trailing just 22-15 after 50 minutes, before the floodgates opened.

Binns suggested his side had, “tried to play too much rugby in the first half, used a lot of energy up, but played reasonably well.

“We went into halftime quietly confident, knowing that if we just stuck to the script we could turn it around.

“At 22-15 we were still in the contest but they scored a couple of quick tries, one opportunist, and then the wheels fell off, which was a shame.

“The score doesn’t indicate it, but I don’t believe we were that far away … there were some good things to come out of it.”

The Mako women play Hawke’s Bay on Friday as a curtain-raiser to the Mako men’s match-up with Auckland at Trafalgar Park.  Kick-off is 5.05pm.

Tim Perry will lead a Tasman team to the United States. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako head for USA in January

The Tasman Mako are set to roam in uncharted waters next year.

It was announced late last week that the team will travel to North America in January for two exhibition games.

First up they will face the ambitious Houston SaberCats in Texas before heading to the Pacific Northwest to take on the reigning Major League Rugby [MRL] champions, the Seattle Seawolves, at Starfire Stadium in Washington on January 26.

The Mako will have their work cut out, especially against the Seawolves, who will be in their third season of MRL and have high hopes of defending their title in 2020.

Both the SaberCats and the Seawolves were inaugural members of the professional MLR set-up, which began in 2018.

The Mako touring squad will be led to the USA by long-serving prop Tim Perry.

The former All Black said, “It is a privilege to lead the Mako on their first overseas tour and we’re looking forward to the games in Houston and Seattle in January.

“It is an incredible opportunity for the next generation of Mako players to play competitively in the United States and a unique opportunity for the Tasman Rugby Union for which we are all grateful.”

Tasman Rugby Union CEO Tony Lewis said, “We believe this a unique opportunity, not only for the Tasman region to showcase our rugby talent, but also for the region’s exporters to promote themselves in these two markets.”

Shane Skinner, owner and president of the Seawolves, added, “I am honoured to have the Tasman Mako come and provide a great competition for our players and a unique experience for our fans.”

The Tasman team will be chosen by the Mako selectors from contracted players without Super Rugby contracts, plus those who impress for Tasman B and the Mako under-19s. It will be named in late October.

Chatham Islands rugby players Charlie, 6, and Bella Bromwich, 8, meet with All Blacks legend Stephen “Beaver” Donald during his visit to the Islands earlier this year. Photo: Supplied.

Marlborough rugby connection stretches to Chatham Islands

Former Marlborough rugby identity Bruce “Bruiser” Bromwich got a recent reminder of just how small the rugby world is.

Bruce and partner Eve Sutherland live on the remote Chatham Islands, having moved there in January with their children Bella and Charlie. Eve is principal at the Te One School, one of three small primary schools on the Islands.

Bruce, who played over 100 premier games for Central, captained them to a grand final win and represented Marlborough, RNZAF and the New Zealand Defence Force, remains active on the Islands rugby scene. He helps organise junior games and the occasional “premier” game when the opportunity arises, or a Kiwi team comes to visit.

At the recent Chatham Islands club junior rugby awards on the main island Charlie picked up an award and, much to Bruce’s amusement, there was a pair of Renwick Rugby Club shorts as part of the prize.

“I had to explain that I played my first club games in Marlborough for [Renwick] in 1996 before coming back to the province and joining Central,” said Bruce.

He said that the Renwick connection had come about through a highly-successful visit by the Renwick under-10s JAB side to the Chathams in September last year.

“You see kids with jackets, bags everything here with Renwick on it”, he added, noting that Charlie was delighted to get the shorts and will wear them with pride.

Bruce explained that there are three groups of rugby players on the Islands.

“Nippers, a middle group which my kids are in, then a few seniors.

“Being such a small group the community does a fantastic job here to keep it going.

“Everyone, netball/rugby players and parents, meets down at the club here on a Saturday and it’s just a bit of a training in groups, then a wee game amongst each other … very old school.

“There is only about 50-odd kids at Te One School and pretty much most the boys and girls play rugby down here”, he added.

Centre Levi Aumua was a powerful presence in the Tasman midfield at Trafalgar Park. Photo: Shuttersport.

Tasman get timely reminder

You would hardly term it a wake-up call.

After all, the Tasman Mako have been probably the most wide awake team running around the NPC so far this season.

Sunday’s battling 21-17 victory over North Harbour at Trafalgar Park was more of a timely reminder that, if you are even slightly off your game in the Mitre 10 premiership, you will pay for it.

Fortunately for the Mako, they found a way to get the job done against a well-organised Harbour outfit who certainly deserved more than the one point they picked up in Nelson.

Immediately following a clinical 80-minute effort against Counties Manukau the previous week, the Mako turned on an error-laden first half. It began at set piece time. Their scrum was bullied, their lineout accuracy went out the window and they were hustled and harassed at breakdown time.

Harbour were good value for their 17-7 lead at the break, having got their tactics spot on, an effort bearing the hallmark of their coach, former Mako mentor Kieran Keane.

He would not have been so happy with their second 40 minutes though as the Mako, buoyed by some key substitutions, controlled possession, applied pressure and reversed the flow of penalties from referee Richard Kelly’s whistle.

Pressure produces points and eventually the tries came, albeit the critical one through a penalty try, a seven-point referee’s gift which matched that awarded to Harbour in the first spell. At least he was consistent.

The Mako will have learned a lot from the match. Top teams need to be able to cope with on-field adversity and scoreboard pressure, a rare situation for the Mako so far this season who have held healthy halftime leads in all of their previous encounters.

Although they definitely have, as they inevitably say, “plenty to work on”, the fact the competition leaders battled back into a match that could have slipped away suggested a resolve that will be needed if they are to go all the way in 2019.

Mako co-head coach Clarke Dermody put a part of his side’s early set piece woes down to “mind-set”.

“Harbour took us on through the front door, at the set piece,” he said.

“If that’s shaky it tends to flow through our game, it was almost catching. In that first half we just couldn’t get going because of that.”

Dermody said there were no major tactical changes made at halftime. “It was more a bit of a mental barb around bringing a bit more intensity in our carry and our collision, around the breakdown.

“In the first half they were sending a lot [of players] in and slowing our ball down. That was good tactics from them and we didn’t quite match that.

“Once we got that area sorted we were able to get go-forward and hold the ball … then gaps started to open. Were we quite clinical enough? Probably not, but to get a win like that says a lot about the team.

“We are in a position [on the table] where every team is going to bring a lot of intensity and their A game every week … because of how we have been playing. If you are off a wee bit then anyone can beat you.

“I feel our guys understand that, but today was probably a good wee reminder of what it actually looks like.”

For Mako fans the Harbour match was something of a reality check.

The fashion in which their side had disposed of their first five opponents may have created some false optimism and feeling that the men in red and blue only had to turn up to win.

Harbour’s stern challenge could not have come at a better time for a side, and its supporters, who both have high expectations.

Waikato await in Hamilton on Saturday. How the Mako respond after a below-par performance will be significant.

Tasman centre Wairakau Greig was a ball of energy on both attack and defence at Yarrow Stadium. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako women too strong for Whio

A first half shut-out of the Taranaki Whio propelled the Tasman Mako women to a comfortable Farah Palmer Cup championship division win at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth on Saturday.

The Mako prevailed 36-22 in the “game of two halves” performance. The southerners led 26-0 after a commanding first half, notching up a four-try bonus point before the break as they made the most of a steady wind at their backs.

They were on the board early, hooker Steph Mitchell powering over on the back of a well-organised lineout drive after just seven minutes.

Three minutes later they were in again, powerful and fleet-footed right winger Rebecca Kersten breaking clear to set up a try for athletic flanker Tamara Silcock.

Kersten was the next to score, dotting down after a superb solo run down the right touchline as her inside backs took the opportunity to spread the ball wide on every occasion.

The final try of the first 40 minutes went to centre Wairakau Greig, the most impressive of the Tasman backline, no mean feat on a day when they all looked lively and defended stoutly.

First five Hayley Hutana converted the final three tries to extend Tasman’s buffer at the break.

However, it was a more committed and accurate home side which came out after oranges.

Within five minutes they were on the board through hugely-impressive halfback Iritana Hohaia, who claimed the first of a brace of tries as her forwards finally managed to string phases together without getting their ball pilfered by the hungry Tasman pack the breakdown.

A Hutana penalty steadied the ship before Hohaia scored her second, then Kersten added her second, following a superb break by midfielder Jess Drummond, to ensure Tasman claimed their first win of the 2019 campaign.

The Mako forwards, with loosies Silcock, skipper Jess Foster-Lawrence and college student Leah Miles to the fore, were tenacious at the breakdown and generally dominated the set pieces, although a few lineouts went astray.

They provided quality ball to a backline with potent attacking threats throughout. Halfback Jamie Paenga was mighty impressive, along with Kersten and fullback Bethan Manners, while Hutana, Drummond and Greig formed an inside back combination possessing both skill and rugby smarts.

Head coach Chris Binns said his side had produced a good first half but suggested they had “gone away from their plans” in the second spell.

He said facing the breeze wasn’t really a factor, noting that Taranaki had lifted their game and his charges had gone away from doing what had worked so well for them in the opening 40.

“That was clearing our end of the field, putting Taranaki under pressure then looking to capitalise once we were down there, we went away from that.

“Overall though I’m very happy. In the first half we stepped up from the North Harbour game … we made a few minor tweaks [to our game plan], getting the ball to the edge quicker and running onto it and that showed in the first 30 minutes when we managed three tries. Rebecca [Kersten] was a bit under the weather with the flu but she had a storming game as did Jess [Foster-Lawrence] and Tamara [Silcock].

“I’m pretty happy with how we are going, two games in, we are on the right track.”

Next up for the Mako is a match against Otago, in Oamaru on Saturday.

Tasman Mako 36 (Rebecca Kersten 2, Stephani Mitchell, Tamara Silcock, Wairakau Greig tries, Hayley Hutana 4 con, pen) Taranaki Whio 22 (Iritana Hohaia 2, Lavenia Nauga-Grey, Alesha Williams tries, Chelsea Fowler con). HT: Tasman 26-0.

Tasman halfback Pippa Andrews attempts to shrug out of a North Harbour tackle on Saturday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Mako women make promising start at Lansdowne

The Tasman women’s rugby team put up a strong performance in their first Farah Palmer Cup match of the national provincial championship season.

The Mako opened their 2019 campaign with a 22-10 loss to North Harbour at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim on Saturday, a late surge allowing the northerners to take the spoils after the scores were locked 5-5 at halftime.

Centre Wairakau Greig scored an early try for Tasman, who more than matched Harbour in the early exchanges.

However the visitors finished the match stronger, opening up a  handy lead before Tasman clawed their way back through a try to fellow midfielder Jess Drummond with 15 minutes to go.

However, Harbour had the final say, adding a third try near the finish.

Mako coach Chris Binns felt his side had the better of the first spell and were very competitive throughout.

“Both teams were probably guilty of first-game syndrome, over-enthusiastic, with quite a few basic errors, but Harbour settled down in the second half.

“Even so, we were right in it through much of the second half, we just didn’t capitalise on those little opportunities that presented themselves. That frustrated us a bit and then we were guilty of being over-enthusiastic at the ruck, giving up easy metres by giving away penalties. And, unfortunately for us, North Harbour capitalised on the opportunities they created. We scored to bring ourselves right back into it but gave up one more with five [minutes] to go.”

Binns said his side demonstrated their expected strength out wide and also, less-expected, at scrum time.

“For the most part we were dominant but we have got to learn not to relax on our own ball.”

Pippa Andrews, at halfback, prop Anna Bradley, flanker Leah Miles, who created multiple turnovers, plus try-scorers Drummond and Greig, stood out in a promising team effort.

“I wasn’t happy with the result,” added Binns, “but was pleased with many aspects of the game.

“The attitude of the players throughout the whole game was good.

“If I wasn’t beforehand I certainly am now hugely excited about what the rest of this competition is going to bring for us. We have a whole lot more growth that can take place.”

Next week the Mako travel to New Plymouth to take on Taranaki.

North Harbour 22 Tasman Mako 10 (Wai Greig, Jess Drummond tries). HT: 5-5.

Former Mako coach Keiran Keane will bring his North Harbour side to Trafalgar Park on Sunday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Former Tasman mentor keen to slow Mako momentum

A familiar face will stand in Tasman’s way as they attempt to make a six-from-six start to the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup rugby season in Nelson on Sunday.

Former Mako coach Kieran Keane, a life member of the union who guided Tasman’s fortunes from 2009-16, will bring his North Harbour team to Trafalgar Park, intent on ending the home side’s flying start to the season.

Harbour have battled for consistency in 2019, their season epitomised by their last effort, where they had to come from a 17-point deficit against Waikato at home to get the job done.

However, the current Mako co-head coach Andrew Goodman has no doubt his former mentor will have the Harbour side primed and ready to put on a strong showing on Sunday.

“It will be good to catch up with KK, he’s done a lot for our union.

“We know he is an awesome coach and he’ll have some great tricks up his sleeve so we will have to be right on our game again.”

Jordan Taufua, back in his home province of Counties Manukau, had a storming game for the Mako on Friday. Photo: Shuttersport.
Jordan Taufua, back in his home province of Counties Manukau, had a storming game for the Mako on Friday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Goodman is also pleased to be playing at home again after a couple of away fixtures.

“Three of our next four games are at Trafalgar Park so we are looking forward to some more strong home support, as we got in Blenheim. We are hoping for the same in our Nelson games.”

Although Tasman have historically struggled to get the better of Harbour sides, this season’s formbook suggests the home side will start as overwhelming favourites, especially given their effort against Counties Manukau on Friday.

Although the Mako scored some well-executed tries on their way to 36 points, it was the other side of the scoreline that gave Goodman the most pleasure.

For the first time in the history of matches between the two sides the Steelers were held scoreless. The home side’s inability to score a single point came down to several factors, most of them stemming directly from the pressure created by their opposition.

“The zero on the scoreboard was the most pleasing aspect of the night,” suggested Goodman. “It’s always a great sight, especially for [defense coach] Shane [Christie] who has been doing some awesome work leading our defence this year. It was a great reward for the whole team.”

Goodman certainly wasn’t expecting such a decisive scoreline, especially in testing conditions.

“We have had some tussles up here in the past so we are happy to grab five points.

“We talked about the fact we had to be right on for these boys – they’ve got dangerous players right across the park … we just had to stay on the whole time and I think the whole side did well there.”

He was particularly impressed with a couple of players, notably lofty lock Pari Pari Parkinson and former Counties-Manukau lad Jordan Taufua who brought “a lot of energy and excitement as he always does and got us a lot of go-forward early on”.

“I also thought that in the early stages our nine and 10, Hunty and Fin, really controlled play well with their kicking game, giving us a good start.

“There were some good individual performances, and the forwards laid a great platform for us.

“To go to our pack at the moment and know we can reset our game with some lineout drives and exploit that kicking space is working well for us at the moment.”

Another factor that is quickly becoming apparent about this Mako side is their ability to perform in all conditions. During their five matches thus far they have faced a mix of wet and dry conditions and been able to produce the goods each time.

“We talked a lot before the season about being able to adapt our game to the conditions and the match situation. We’ve definitely had some improvements in that area but there’s a little bit of growth still to be had,” warned Goodman.

Kick off at Trafalgar Park on Sunday is 4.35pm.

Mitch Hunt and Tima Faingaanuku, background, combined superbly for two of the Mako tries. Photo: Shuttersport.

Taranaki’s ‘bully boy’ tactics unable to intimidate Mako

At halftime in Sunday’s Tasman v Taranaki match-up at the Bullring in New Plymouth one of the ‘Naki coaching staff let slip that the home side had talked before the game of “being the bully”.

And it was clear from the outset that the Amber and Blacks, renowned for their uncompromising forward play, were intent on “bullying” their high-flying opponents from the top of the south.

To some extent it worked, Taranaki bringing early intensity at the breakdown and ferocity in defence. However, that sort of effort takes its toll and, if their rivals are patient, as Tasman generally were, they can absorb the pressure and find other ways to unlock the defence.

Mitchell Hunt’s pinpoint cross kicks created two superbly-executed Mako tries, the other pair of touchdowns coming through relentless close-quarter play, achieved when the opposition were fatigued from tackling themselves into the ground.

When the final whistle sounded there was only one “bully” left standing tall at Yarrow Stadium.

There is plenty to like about this Mako side, who now lead the premiership by five points. One is their ability to adapt the way they attack to what their opposition bring, another is their willingness to use the ball from all areas of the ground, and at a pace that very few teams can live with.

With this approach, mistakes are bound to occur. After all bodies are moving onto the ball at maximum speed and close to the tackle line.

That’s where the other integral part of the Mako game comes in. Their defence is well-organised, desperate and hard-hitting. And that occurs right across the park, making them a tough proposition to tip over, as a gallant but ultimately out-gunned Taranaki side found out.

Tasman co-head coach Andrew Goodman said his side knew the home side were going to bring a physical approach to the table.

“We could probably have adjusted a little earlier with our body height … but when we got that right we got some good go-forward ball and were able to exploit a bit of space.

“They were definitely strong around the breakdown area, threw some numbers in and slowed out ball down.”

Goodman felt the physicality of the match, and the way they had dealt with it would benefit the Mako going into their next match, against Counties Manukau, another team renowned for their robust approach, on Friday.

“[This game’s] given us some areas we need to tidy up before then so we can get the speed of ball that we like to play with.”

With a short turnaround before the Mako’s next game, recovery is paramount and injuries, especially in key positions, can slow momentum. Goodman said immediately after the match he hadn’t ascertained the extent of the knock to prop Tyrel Lomax that saw him leave the field early in the first half.

“Fingers crossed he’s not too bad, but it was great to see Crocky [Wyatt Crockett] get through 40 on his return to play and it seems everyone else got through pretty well although there will be some sore bodies no doubt.”

A major plus for the Mako on Sunday came at lineout time where they stole a high percentage of their rival’s throws, curtailing their attacking ambitions.

“The boys have done a lot of hard work on our lineout defence,” said Goodman, “it’s always rewarding when something like that pays off.”

Another feature of Tasman’s efforts so far has been the positive way they have approached all aspects of the game, taking the opportunity to express themselves in what Goodman describes as “the Mako way”.

After picking up maximum points from probably their toughest examination of the current campaign, sorry about that Canterbury, it seems that is definitely the right way to go.

MBC fall at final hurdle

Marlborough Boys’ College First XV stumbled at the final hurdle of a topsy-turvy season, losing 22-21 to Rangiora High School in an exciting University of Canterbury Plate final on Saturday.

The home side led 22-7 at halftime, then had enough petrol in the tank to repel a strong MBC second half revival as the Falcons closed to within one point at the final whistle.

Their defeat sees MBC finish sixth in the overall UC championship standings.

MBC’s tries were scored by Tristan Taylor, in the first half, Ben O’Sullivan and Sky Boskett-Barnes while Dylan McManaway landed all three conversions.

Head coach Matt MacDougall said his side made a slow start, which they recovered from, but ultimately left themselves too much to do, although they “had them on the ropes for the last 10 minutes or so”.

“Shell-shocked would be the word I’d use to describe our first half,” said MacDougall.

“They went into their shell a wee bit – let Rangiora play all the rugby and spent the half trying to stop them scoring. We went away from what we have been doing for the last month. We also lost our No 8 [skipper Ollie Lawson] quite early on through injury and that didn’t help.

“At halftime we just told the lads to express themselves, make their decisions and back themselves and it turned into a really tight game.

“Ben [O’Sullivan] forced an intercept which he scored from, then a couple of nice phases set up a try for Sky [Boskett-Barnes] with a couple of minutes to go, but then we panicked a bit and probably the better team won on the day.

“It was a game that was there for the taking but the boys may have been a bit over-awed by the occasion,” he suggested.

MacDougall described the season overall as “inconsistent, but very enjoyable”.

“We played some really nice attacking rugby but they just needed some hard lessons in defence.

“If the other coaches and I could go back and have the season over again we felt we took for granted some basics around defence. Once we got that sorted it fell into place.

“I’m rapt with the way they came home. There are some boys coming back who will have learned a lot from this season. We’ll definitely front up next year with a really good, experienced forward pack but there will be some blooding of some new backs.”

Meanwhile, Nelson College were crowned UC champions on their front field, for the first time since 2007, beating Christchurch Boys’ High School 35-31.

In a pulsating encounter Nelson College skipper Anton Segner scored two crucial second half tries to lead his time to victory, and a place in the South Island final against Otago BHS.

The third-tier UC bowl title was won by Lincoln HS, who beat Shirley HS 29-27.