Waikato dug deep in their opening match of the Mitre 10 Cup, but the Tasman Makos were the better side on the day.
The 24-19 result sees Sean Botherway’s men get nothing from the, match in terms of points on the table.
A great try to Jordon Trainor saw Waikato go into halftime with the lead 9-10. The visiting side were able to maintain their slender lead throughout the second half. Importantly, errors in the line out and at the ruck cost Waikato badly, and handed Tasman too many opportunities to score.
Tasman took full advantage of those opportunities, and they came back to snatch last-gasp victory in the closing minutes–thanks to a try from Alex Ainley.
Waikato disappointed in opener of Mitre 10 Cup
Standing in as captain for the injured Stephen Donald was Isaac Boss, a player with international credibility. With stints playing for Leinster and caps with Ireland, Boss said he was disappointed with the result against Tasman, after his side controlled much of the second half.
We felt quite comfortable throughout the game and really came to play. But there were just a few points at the end of the first and second half that saw us come away disappointed.
The new look back line for Waikato appears to hold a lot of promise in 2016. The midfield pairing of Willis Halaholo and Nathaniel Apa looked in sync during their first hit out together. Donald was a late withdrawl, as he was looking to lead his province until struck down by injury. The young players would have learned much from ‘Beaver’ and from players like Boss.
Unwanted All Black Damian McKenzie Back To First Five
Damian McKenzie has suddenly become one of the key leaders in a Waikato squad that is full of youth. McKenzie appeared to slot seamlessly back into the first-five position, after playing all of his rugby at fullback throughout 2016.
From the tee, McKenzie kicked at a perfect 100% in the opening round of Mitre 10 Cup. It wasn’t all sunshine for McKenzie though–he made a crucial error late in the game though, knocking on the ball inside his own 22 to give Tasman the ball back with a two-point lead.
He was a major figure in attack, using his experience with the Chiefs. As well, Jordon Trainor has taken advantage of his opportunity at the next level. When it counted, the young playmaker was in good position to finish off a Halaholo counter attack with his try in the corner.
Injury Concern For Shaun Stevenson
Shaun Stevenson’s campaign with Waikato will go under the spotlight after round one. The talented fullback has suffered a serious knee injury, sustained during the 24-19 loss to Tasman.
Leaping for the high ball, Stevenson fell hard to the turf and immediately reached for his right knee. The young fullback was taken from the field, and noticeably, was unable to put any weight on his right leg.
From the latest reports, Stevenson appears likely to be ruled out for the rest of the season (from initial scans). With that bad news, Botherway will be awaiting Donald’s return–expected back in a number of weeks. The likes of McKenzie, Trainor, and Sam Christie could fill the position, but how the young side adapts now will determine their prospects.
— Mitre10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) August 21, 2016
As they did last season, Waikato have started their national provincial championship campaign with a loss. Attention must now turn to the first Ranfurly Shield home defence of the season, against North Harbour. That match kicks off at 2:35pm, Saturday 27 August.
Tries: Finlay Christie, Alex Ainly
Con: Hunt Pen: Hunt (3)
Tries: Jordon Trainor
Con: McKenzie Pen: McKenzie (4)
Waikato collect one point for the loss (seven points or less) and sit fourth in the Premiership table after one round of the season.
“Main photo credit”