Tas­man’s track­ing just nicely

Nelson Mail - - SPORT -

As­sis­tant coach happy with progress made by the Makos

Leo Crow­ley’s right where he’d hoped he’d be at the pointy end of this year’s Mitre 10 Cup rugby cam­paign.

Af­ter a late resur­gence to com­ple­ment some early set­backs and var­i­ous dis­ci­plinary ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, the Tas­man Makos are head­ing into their sixth straight post-sea­son cam­paign. And now just sev­eral months into his new role as Tas­man’s as­sis­tant coach, that’s all Crow­ley could ask for re­ally.

Fourth-placed Tas­man meet Coun­ties-Manukau in their fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son match in Pukekohe this week­end with a semi­fi­nal berth al­ready se­cured. Crow­ley’s never doubted the cre­den­tials of a tal­ented Tas­man team. It’s just taken them time to find their feet, high­lighted by last Sun­day’s stir­ring 31-18 win over Auck­land in the wet at Trafal­gar Park.

Mo­men­tum is on Tas­man’s side and while their semi­fi­nal op­po­nent has still to be de­ter­mined, Crow­ley was con­fi­dent that the Makos would em­brace the chal­lenge.

‘‘Mo­men­tum’s mas­sive, we’ve won six out of seven and the con­fi­dence is there,’’ Crow­ley said in the build up to the Coun­ties clash.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously you want to get third be­cause it gives you that slight hope that if things went your way you could host a fi­nal, you know, if you fin­ish fourth you can’t host any­thing.

‘‘So we’ll be do­ing our ut­most to beat [Coun­ties] and let the other games hap­pen as they hap­pen.

‘‘It’s pretty tough hav­ing your short week late in the sea­son be­cause you’re al­ready car­ry­ing a few bruises. But ev­ery­one’s got to go through it and we’ve fi­nally done ours so that’s good.’’

It’s been an en­joy­able process for Crow­ley as he’s watched a rel­a­tively new set of play­ers de­velop through­out the sea­son. He said the union was in­debted to peo­ple such as as­sis­tant coach An­drew Good­man and fit­ness trainer Jimmy Holden for their early sea­son in­put as Su­per Rugby play­ers grad­u­ally fil­tered back into the sys­tem.

That rein­te­gra­tion was some­thing that the man­age­ment team needed to ad­dress ahead of next sea­son’s cam­paign although he was al­ways con­fi­dent that the play­ers’ tal­ent would even­tu­ally shine through. It’s been a steady but re­ward­ing process.

‘‘The skill fac­tor out there the other day [against Auck­land] was re­ally high con­sid­er­ing the con­di­tions be­cause you don’t play in that weather very often these days. We’ve ba­si­cally just been slowly build­ing and I think the Waikato game was a turn­ing point.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously we were 0-2 and a bit of pres­sure was start­ing to build. But we’ve had some re­ally good patches, we’re the only team to beat Welling­ton this year and we scored 24 unan­swered points against them.’’

Indis­ci­pline has been an is­sue though, with Tas­man play­ers re­ceiv­ing seven yel­low and two red cards this sea­son. Cen­tre Levi Au­mua was sent off for a tip tackle against Otago, while winger Vil­iami Lolo­hea suf­fered same fate af­ter re­ceiv­ing con­sec­u­tive yel­low cards against Taranaki. .

‘‘We’ve prob­a­bly been un­lucky with one or two. Yeah, the red cards have hurt us, spe­cially the Taranaki one, yet at the end of the day, we only lost that game by 14 points and we scored four tries and we def­i­nitely weren’t happy about how we played.

‘‘We’ve def­i­nitely talked about how hard this com­pe­ti­tion is with 15 [play­ers] let alone 14, so it’s just in­di­vid­ual mind­set re­ally.

‘‘We’ve had one lift tackle and two times not get­ting off the ground for a high ball, so they’re eas­ily ad­dressed, it’s not as if they’re in­ten­tional.

‘‘They could be termed as ac­ci­dents or a slight mo­ment of bad de­ci­sion. It is what it is, we want them to be phys­i­cal and we want to con­trol the space around us so it’s just a few dis­cus­sions, noth­ing ma­jor.’’

Crow­ley said that hand­ing North Har­bour just their sec­ond loss of the sea­son in Blen­heim was also sig­nif­i­cant.

‘‘I thought the North Har­bour game in Blen­heim was a re­ally good per­for­mance. We fired out of the blocks and that’s prob­a­bly where we have been lack­ing a lit­tle bit. We like to run the ball, we don’t kick as often as some other sides so when it clicks, we’re pretty hard to con­trol.

‘‘It was an im­por­tant game for us North Har­bour be­cause they’ve phys­i­cally beaten up op­po­si­tion and our for­wards matched them and that’s prob­a­bly a good thing go­ing for­ward.

‘‘I think we’ve def­i­nitely got the team to get to the big dance as such, but Can­ter­bury and Taranaki are the two king pins at the mo­ment. But I don’t think it wor­ries Tas­man hav­ing to go away and play them on their home deck. It comes down to 80 min­utes doesn’t it?’’

CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOPSORT

Tas­man as­sis­tant coaches Leo Crow­ley, left, and Greg Somerville share their thoughts be­fore a match.

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