Marty McKenzie shows he belongs in hot seat
By quite a few accounts, Marty McKenzie was asked to lift his game following Taranaki's narrow loss to Hawke's Bay last week.
On the evidence of the hand that he played against Waikato on Wednesday, it might not be a bad idea if the coaches gave the same message to him for the remainder of the season.
The 22-year-old took the game by the scruff of the neck, attacked the line, took the right options and was a threat for most of the minutes he was on the park.
His reward was two tries, four conversions and a couple of penalties for a haul of 24 points.
If he had been allowed to play out the 80 minutes he might have even threatened Beauden Barrett's Taranaki NPC record of 29 points, such was the form he was in at Waikato Stadium.
There were several definitive highlights, with arguably the best his powerful and well disguised fend of Waikato prop Josh Hohneck which led to his second try, although his pin-ball conversion from the sideline was also impressive.
''It was just good to get the five competition points,'' a reserved McKenzie said after the match.
When pressed on his individual performance, the former Southland and Blues rep let a bit more slip.
''It was nice to play a complete game almost, although there are still a few things to work on and that sort of stuff.
''I thought the team on a whole was pretty good and I thought we shouldered more in the tackle and were a lot more direct.''
With just two competition games under his belt before Wednesday night, some of the people questioning McKenzie's ability in the No 10 jersey were probably premature in their criticism.
''Ten is a hot seat and I kind of enjoy that. We had a good talk during the week, me and Coops [Taranaki coach Colin Cooper], and he wanted me to come out here and be a bit more dominant.
"I didn't feel any pressure coming into it, I just wanted to play my natural game and help the team out where I can.''
McKenzie credited the forwards for the accuracy of their clean out at the breakdown and the service he got from halfbacks Jamison Gibson-Park and Chris Smylie.
Cooper was also delighted with the way McKenzie repeatedly asked questions of the Waikato defence and the maturity he showed.
''Big, big rap for him,'' he said.
Taranaki Daily News