Ill-disciplined Makos have to do it the hard way
The Tasman Makos’ pride themselves on being able to overcome adversity – in fact it is part of their catch-cry this season.
They have adopted a mantra of, ‘‘no excuses, we just have to step up and perform, do whatever it takes to get a result’’.
On Saturday, they showed it’s not just talk.
Their 29-27 win over Otago was achieved against the odds, overcoming some hurdles created by outside influences and others of their own making.
It was a big enough ask having to travel to Dunedin and take on a home side who looked mighty impressive in their opening encounters, without factoring in the travel schedule from hell.
After the plane taking them to Wellington and on to Dunedin broke down in Nelson on Friday afternoon, the side opted to hop into mini-vans and head south, through the Lewis Pass.
They arrived in Christchurch just before midnight then got up at 5.30am to catch a flight to Dunedin on the morning of the mid afternoon match.
It was the first time the team had travelled on the day of an away match, a situation manager Martyn Vercoe described as ‘‘hugely disruptive’’
‘‘You don’t want to go through that every week,’’ he said, ‘‘but actually it galvanised us a wee bit, gave the boys a bit of a chip on the shoulder and motivated us.’’
The Makos certainly began strongly, their breakdown work a step up from recent efforts as they turned in a dominant first half, scoring three well-worked tries.
When they fortuitously bagged their fourth, a penalty try after yet another ludicrous ruling when an Otago player knocked on while attempting an interception, the game was firmly in the visitor’s grasp.
However, as the Makos have done before this season, they invited their opponents back into the fight.
Firstly skipper Alex Ainley, normally the most professional of players, had a brain explosion.
His clumsy ‘‘rucking’’ in front of referee Mike Fraser was only going to have one result, a yellow card, then centre Levi Aumua, who scored a sensational first half try, went from hero to zero with a tip tackle that saw him red carded.
Facing just 13 men for a short time, and 14 for the remainder of the game, Otago smelled blood.
They scored two converted tries as the Makos clung desperately to their advantage, while watching the clock wind down agonisingly slowly.
Despite their fall from grace in the second half, Tasman can take great heart from this result.
Otago are a formidable unit and not many rivals will come away from Forsyth Barr with five points.
The Makos also had personnel issues, predominantly in the front row, to deal with.
With their top three props unavailable, the backbenchers stepped up.
The late release of Tyrel Lomax was a bonus, the big man stepping up when Isaac Salmon went off with a head knock, Tom Hill performed admirably and rookie Drew Petelo stood up in the frantic final minutes.
Vernon Fredericks celebrated his 50th match with a typical, accurate hard-grafting performance.
His combination with fellow loosies Ethan Blackadder and Jordan Taufua is building with each outing.
Mitch Hunt was another to impress, his footwork and vision beginning to pay dividends.
Next week the Makos meet Southland at Trafalgar Park, 4.35pm on Sunday.