A 47-21 victory over Otago under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Sunday has sent the Tasman Mako back to the top of the Mitre 10 Cup premiership rugby standings and ensured them a place in the NPC semi-finals.
Tasman set up their seventh win of the season with a superb first half display, scoring four tries, all converted by the assured and influential Mitch Hunt, to lead 28-0 at the turnaround.
With their forward pack dominating at both set pieces and the breakdown, the Mako were able to effectively shut the home side, and their supporters out of the contest.
However, a rev-up from the Otago coaching staff, who suggested the home side could either run up the white flag or the Blue and Gold flag after the break, seemed to have paid dividends when they fought back into the game almost immediately.
Their revival was short-lived though, with Tasman staying in the fight.
Although Otago narrowly won the second spell, the Mako added three more tries.
This included a brace to flying fullback Will Jordan who picked up a hat-trick, to keep the home side at arm’s length.
Mako head coach Leon MacDonald said he was particularly happy with the first half display.
“We played the way we had trained and planned.”
“But the second half didn’t really go to plan. ”
“It’s becoming a bit of a habit that we have to sort out.”
As they did against Wellington in their previous game, the Mako tight five stood up and took control of their areas, setting a solid platform for some potent attack.
“Our scrum and lineout was outstanding and our mauling was also good … plus some of our finishing was much better than in recent weeks, which has been a work-on for us,” MacDonald said.
“Some of our defensive work was also outstanding, our line speed and breakdown intensity especially brought pressure.”
He pinpointed the work of flanker Ethan Blackadder and Jordan for special mention.
“Ethan has played every minute of the campaign and he’s trained every training.”
“Then he goes out and plays like he does every week, he’s been a real soldier for us this year and a top leader. Will [Jordan] was also particularly good today.”
MacDonald said having another game so soon would put pressure on their squad, “almost like a Storm Week”.
“It’s a quick turnaround so it’s going to be about regrouping quickly.”
“We don’t want to miss an opportunity for a home semi so it is a really important game for us.”
“We’ve just got to bottle up that first half and hopefully see more of that from now on,” MacDonald added.
Next Thursday the Mako play Hawke’s Bay in Nelson to complete the round robin phase of the competition.
Premiership standings after week eight: Tasman 38, Canterbury 37, Auckland 36, Wellington 29, North Harbour 29, Counties Manukau 16, Taranaki 13. NOTE: Auckland have two more games to play, the other teams only one.