Makos take steam from Bay of Plenty

STRONG EFFORT: Tasman may not have clicked as a whole, but players such as Bryce Heem had good individual games.
STRONG EFFORT: Tasman may not have clicked as a whole, but players such as Bryce Heem had good individual games.

Tasman maintained their scorching start to the NPC rugby season, putting 56 points past Bay of Plenty in Tauranga yesterday - but you wouldn't have known it by the players' reaction.

The Makos' coaches are hard taskmasters and apparently so too are the players, with skipper Shane Christie less than impressed by some aspects of their 56-27 victory.

"I was disappointed actually," said Christie. "Too many errors . . . we didn't do the basics well and didn't stick to our game plan. We got the win but our expectations are high . . . we need to stick to our own standard and it wasn't there tonight," he told Sky Television immediately after the final whistle.

First five eighth Marty Banks bagged 26 points to push his NPC tally past 200 in just 10 games, but was also disappointed by the Makos failure to execute. "The second half wasn't that great on our behalf and we'll probably get an earful from [coaches] KK and Leon over that, but [Bay of Plenty] were a good team, they disrupted us every chance they got and that affected our whole game."

Despite bringing up his double century, the modest Banks wasn't entirely happy with his kicking, suggesting, "the boot was a bit wayward tonight, so I hope I can find a new pair of boots and fix that."

On reflection, the Makos troops may cut themselves some slack. They certainly didn't turn in an 80-minute effort - if they did, the score may have touched 100 - but they ran in seven tries and had a bonus point in the bag by halftime, leading 34-15 at oranges.

Their opponents upped their game in the second spell, stiffening their defence and slowing down Tasman's ball, while a raft of Tasman replacements added fresh legs but created new combinations.

If thoughts of last week's victory over Waikato were still swirling in their subconscious at kickoff, they were soon dispelled when the Steamers dotted down inside a minute. Soft goal-line defence allowed Highlanders prop Kane Hames to barge over, Dan Hollinshead's conversion giving the home side an early filip.

It took just five minutes for the Makos to reply. A careless pass from Steamers skipper Culum Retallick was intercepted by hooker Quentin MacDonald, who sprinted 20m to dot down under the posts, before Banks levelled the scores.

A penalty goal apiece was just reward as the sides struggled for superiority in the early stages of the half, but Tasman always appeared the more dangerous, and so it proved. In an stunning 10-minute burst, the Makos moved the scoreline from 10-10 to 34-10.

Firstly a slick back move from off-the-top lineout ball put Kieron Fonotia into a gap, his pass finding Tom Marshall for an easy run-in. Five minutes later Christie was over after a sweeping counterattack involving Joe Wheeler and Fonotia, who picked up the next try when he charged down a Bay clearing kick and regathered.

Banks converted all three tries and added a penalty as the Makos lifted the intensity to a level the Steamers couldn't live with.

But it was the home side who had the last say in the first 40, hooker Joe Royal crossing out wide after a break by midfielder Doug Edwards. Hollinshead's conversion slipped by the posts, but the Steamers were still very much in the match at 34-15.

They became even more of a threat soon after the restart when winger Tino Nemani touched down after a break out from the Steamers' own half, inspired by the creative Hollinshead.

The Makos coaches had rung the changes at the break, Jimmy Cowan on for Billy Guyton at halfback, Tevita Cavubati replacing Alex Ainley at lock and David Havili replacing Ben Tyler, who himself was an early substitute for an injured Mitchell Scott.

For the next 20 minutes an arm wrestle ensued, played out mainly in Bay of Plenty territory. The Makos scrum began to dominate, but their play became muddled. The Bay were unable to break out, Tasman unable to land a killer blow. Even the reliable Banks was astray, missing a penalty from point blank range.

A well-executed James Lowe try after 61 minutes ended the stalemate, with Bay of Plenty replying through replacement loosie Johan Bardoul soon after. Then the floodgates opened. A penalty to Banks brought up his 200-point milestone then he added another seven immediately after, cutting through from a 5m scrum earned after a clever Cowan chip kick. Havili scored the last try, created 10m from the Makos line after another Christie turnover. Fonotia provided the crucial link.

The 56 points was the Makos' second highest NPC score, bettered only by 57 against Manawatu last season.

Although the players were hard on themselves as a combination, they played well individually. Props Tim Perry and Ross Geldenhuys anchored a dominant scrum, for most of the match, while MacDonald's tackling was a feature. Liam Squire was quieter than last week, but his combination with Christie continues to grow. Christie's work at kick-off time was superb. Loosie Nemani Nagusa showed good touches in his first outing at this level, taking some time to adjust to the pace.

Lowe, Heem, Fonotia and Marshall constantly pose attacking threats from anywhere, while Guyton had a busy, aggressive 40 minutes.

Best of the Bay side was No 8 Joe Tupe, with fellow loosie Hamish Gosling close behind. Hames and Royal impressed up front.

The Marlborough Express