Mon, Oct 11, 2021 9:10 AM
Mitch Hunt's boot kept Tasman in the game today, but they were unable to match the Magpies' try-scoring ability. Photo Shuttersport
Tasman’s high-flying Mako learned some harsh lessons about the reality of Ranfurly Shield rugby at McLean Park on Saturday.
Firstly, that mistakes are amplified under Shield pressure, secondly, that defense is a cornerstone of Shield success, and thirdly, that reputations mean nothing when the Log of Wood goes on the line.
The final score may have been relatively close, but the fact Hawke’s Bay scored five tries to Tasman’s one in their 34-22 victory pretty much sums up the afternoon.
Tasman’s defense went missing in the early stages, four tries being conceded before the half hour mark.
Then, when the Mako re-discovered their mojo in the middle stages of the second spell, the home side tackled relentlessly before forcing a couple of critical turnovers on their goal line.
This match was long-awaited, just the third challenge for the Mako in their 16thseason and they travelled north riding a wave of recent success.
Tasman may be the defending NPC premiership champs, but the Magpies are the defending Ranfurly Shield holders, meaning they are well aware there is “no tomorrow” as far as the Shield is concerned.
Their desperation to retain NZ Rugby’s glittering prize, honed by previous challenges, was obvious and pivotal.
There are few big names in the Bay line-up, but all stepped up.
Some match-ups were crucial. Hawke’s Bay halfback Ereatara Enari had the better of his Tasman opposite Jack Grooby, the latter battling for accuracy and speed at the breakdown as he makes his comeback from injury.
The loose forward battle was tight, with the unit of Brendon O’Connor, Marino Mikeale-Tu’u and Devan Flanders gaining a slight edge in intensity and accuracy over the Tasman trio.
Tasman certainly had some bad luck.
Co-captain Quinten Strange, such a pivotal figure, was invalided out of the game after quarter of an hour.
His influence, especially at lineout time, was sorely missed, although fellow lock Pari Pari Parkinson worked his socks off to compensate in that area.
The Mako bench were consequently impacted by injury, Hugh Renton having to enter the match early to cover for Strange and then prop Atu Moli lasting only a few moments when he entered the fray for the final quarter.
Although coming up short, there were several heroes out there for the challengers.
Winger Timoci Tavatavanawai, who must have put up his hand for a Super Rugby contract, was outstanding, both as a kick chaser and with ball in hand.
Parkinson and Renton’s work rates were exceptional, while young Anton Segner showed resilience and skill.
Mitch Hunt pulled all the right strings in the 10 shirt and maintained his captaincy composure, opting to bank three pointers when trailing to keep his side in touch.
However, keeping in touch is one thing, kicking on to snatch victory in such a high-profile encounter is another and Tasman were not able to step up.
So, the Mako wait to climb the third peak of NZ rugby continues.
An immensely proud group, they will have learned plenty from today’s effort and will be stung by their inability to deliver.
Let’s hope it is not another nine years before they get a fourth chance to complete their ascent.