Tasman’s tracking just nicely
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?’’
Tasman assistant coaches Leo Crowley, left, and Greg Somerville share their thoughts before a match.