David Havili on attack for the Mako on Friday night. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

Mako off to stunning start

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The Tasman Mako kicked of its Mitre 10 Cup campaign on Friday night in stunning style, knocking off the defending champions Canterbury 25-17 at Lansdowne Park.

The Mako avenged their loss to the red and blacks in the 2017 premiership final, dominating the visitors upfront and showcasing their blockbuster backline to declare themselves serious title contenders.

Tasman ran in three tries at Lansdowne Park, at one stage leading 25-3 before a late comeback flattered the score-line for the Cantabs.

Mako debutant Solomon Alaimalo showed why his signature was so sought after, producing a brilliant display on the left wing, while veteran Wyatt Crockett was another stand-out in his first appearance for the franchise.

Bullocking centre Levi Aumua proved a nightmare for the Canterbury midfield defence as he opened the Mako’s try scoring account. Canterbury found themselves on the back foot early as Tasman swarmed the visitors with their bruising defence while dominating at set piece.

The platform laid by the pack allowed Crusader Mitch Hunt to steer the side around the park as the Mako handed Canterbury its first defeat in a season opener since 2012.

Head coach Leon MacDonald says the win will put a target on their backs, but they are happy to no longer wear the underdog tag.

“We feel we have been around for long enough now, we’ve earned our place and we would rather be thought of as a top contender every year – that’s the way we see ourselves.”

MacDonald said his side’s reward came on the back of a strong defensive effort.

“We were really pleased with the way we defended,” said MacDonald, “[defence] has been getting a lot of our time at training just now. It has galvanized the team actually, made it something to hang our hat on.”

However, MacDonald described the concession of points late in the piece as “a good lesson”.

“Although there were a lot of things we did very well, like our exiting, our decision-making on attack and we created a lot of turnovers, it just shows, you miss one lineout five metres out and all of a sudden two tries are conceded. It could have been 30-3 if they had executed … that’s the ruthlessness we have to bring to our game.”

The Mako return to Blenheim for their second game, a clash with championship side Southland, on Sunday, kick off 2:35pm.