His team may have banked 14 out of a maximum of 15 points from their so-called “Storm Week”, but Tasman Mako coach Leon MacDonald was not exactly jumping for joy after Sunday’s 21-19 win over Counties Manukau.
Wins over Taranaki, Manawatu and the Steelers across a nine-day span mean the Mako are sitting pretty near the top of the Mitre 10 Cup table, on track to book a semi-final spot and maybe a home play-off at that.
However, MacDonald was less than chuffed with his side’s performance at Trafalgar Park, despite them eking out a win in a classic “game of two halves”.
The first spell belonged to the Mako, their ability to create space wide with pace and vision matched only by their inability to make the final passes count. The second half saw a Steelers’ revival, which ended just short of a remarkable turnaround victory.
“We are happy with the [competition] points,” said MacDonald, “but not the performance … we are certainly disappointed with how we finished the game.”
He was quick to dismiss lethargy from such a gruelling schedule as a factor in their sloppy effort.
“If we had executed better in the first half they would have been out of the game, but we left them close enough to have a sniff … I don’t know how many opportunities we blew … but there were plenty, and we left it for a fight and, unfortunately, it was really ugly in the end.”
“We played everything we had planned to do really well – other than put the ball down over the line.”
“That’s just skill execution and pretty frustrating for all of us … we set quite high standards, especially around our skills … so when it doesn’t happen the way you expect it to, that’s very disappointing.”
An early injury to reliable lineout king Pari Pari Parkinson was a blow and, coupled with the loss of flanker Sione Havili with a potential season-ending injury during the warm-ups and a head knock to fellow loosie Jed Brown, meant the Mako had to dig deep into their forward reserves, but they all stood up.
Quinten Strange was enormous. He suffered a rib injury during the second spell but soldiered on, organizing the reshuffled lineouts and carrying hard.
Veteran Wyatt Crockett, described by MacDonald as “evergreen”, added energy and complemented his core skills with some strong support play and a vital try.
David Havili, back in the midfield, had a busy day, defending, carrying and organizing like the experienced international player that he now is.
His brother Willy Havili made his Mako debut in the second spell, pushing Mitch Hunt back to fullback, and made a good fist of a tough assignment with Counties in the middle of a resurgence when he entered the fray.
Despite their finishing woes, the Mako’s ability to outwit organized defences with angled running, clever passes and direct running is perhaps unmatched in the competition and gives their coach cause to reflect more favourably on the week gone by.
“I suppose you would take your 14 points [at the start of the “Storm Week”] and look forward to next week, but we are going to have to be a lot better than what we have been if we are genuine about being a contender,” he warned.
Debutant Willy Havili says they were disappointed to allow the Steelers back in the game.
“Pretty happy to get the win, I didn’t think it would be that close when I came on.”
Willy says, now that he has had a taste of Mitre 10 Cup action, he hopes he can be a regular name in the squad.
“I will just take it step by step, I’m learning everything I can off Mitchy and the other boys around me.”
This week the Mako travel to Wellington to take on the Lions at Westpac Stadium.
Kick off on Saturday night is at 7.35pm.