Mako men draw first blood

Tasman winger Timoci Tavatavanawai dive acroos the line for the match-deciding try. Photo: Shuttersport.

The Tasman Mako Wider Training Group team battled their way to a 42-31 over their Wellington counterparts at Lansdowne Park on Wednesday.

In perfect conditions, both sides took the opportunity to give the ball plenty of air and further their individual chances of Mitre 10 Cup selection later in the season.

Wellington began strongly as the home side took their time getting into the match. Within 15 minutes the visitors had two tries on the board, sparking the Mako men into action.

Tries to No 8 Taina Fox-Matamua, who left the field injured after dotting down beside the posts, and energetic prop Kershawl Sykes-Martin from close range put the home side back into the game, then they added two more before halftime to take a 28-14 lead into the break. All four Tasman tries were converted by first five Campbell Parata who was perfect from the tee all afternoon.

A fifth try, to skipper Tim O’Malley, stretched Tasman’s lead to 35-14 before Wellington, sparked by their bench players, scored a quick double to draw within four points.

However Tasman had the final say, a clever attacking cross kick being gathered by impressive winger Timoci Tavatavanawai, who dotted down between the posts for a double.

The set pieces were relatively evenly-fought, young Max Hicks standing out for Tasman at lineout time, while loosies Isaiah Miller and Braden Stewart were prominent in defence and, in Stewart’s case, with ball in hand.

There was much interest in the performance at fullback of NZ Sevens player Andrew Knewstubb, but he had few chances to show his wide range of skills and pace.

Parata steered Tasman around the park well with his trusty left boot and, although he missing touch from a couple of penalties, generally impressed.

Tasman coach Gray Cornelius was happy with the hit-out.

“It was really good to see that next tier of players playing at a higher level than club … there were some really pleasing things to come out of [the match].

“We got some guys in the Mako jersey for the first time too, so that was pretty cool. The Wellington side were perfect opposition for us at this stage of proceedings, just what we needed.”

Cornelius suggested Louie Chapman, who came on at halfback in the second spell had a good outing, along with Hopoate Taufa, who entered the fray when Fox-Matamua departed. He also mentioned wingers Jamie Spowart and Tavatavanawai, plus Parata who “had some good touches”.

Now it is back to club rugby for the aspiring Mako men, then some will be involved in the final Mako hit-out before NPC, against Canterbury in Hanmer on Friday, September 4. The Mako side will be named late August.

Scores: Tasman Mako WTG 42 (Taina Fox-Matamua, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, Timoci Tavatavanawai 2, Braden Stewart, Tim O’Malley tries, Campbell Parata 6 con) Wellington Lions WTG 31 (James Tuia, Bruce Kauika-Peterson, Cullum Harkin, Shamus Langton, Aiden Morgan tries, Morgan 3 con). HT: 28-14 Tasman.

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