Harbour Rugby must ‘steel themselves’ ahead of Mitre 10 Cup three-match cycle

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Harbour Rugby must 'steel themselves' ahead of Mitre 10 Cup three-match cycle
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Matt Duffie of North Harbour scores a try during the round three Mitre 10 Cup match between North Harbour and Tasman at QBE Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Finishing second best to the Tasman Mako on Saturday night, Harbour Rugby must now ‘steel themselves’ ahead of the Mitre 10 Cup three-match cycle; starting next Sunday afternoon versus the Wellington Lions.

Ahead of what has been referred to as the ‘storm week’ – where sides play three games in ten days, head coach Tom Coventry is more concerned with the hear and now, after his North Harbour team was unable to deflect the highly professional Tasman Mako side.

Tasman 32 – Tries:Tima Faingaanuku, Will Jordan, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie; Conversions: Mitchell Hunt (3); Penalties: Hunt (2)
North Harbour 20 – Tries: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Matt Duffie; Cons: Bryn Gatland (2); Pens: Gatland (2)

Not an all-conquering defeat, but it is one that is an early measure of the teams qualities. “There’s probably a little lesson in there for us, about relieving pressure when we had been scrambling well”. The verdict from Harbour Rugby coach Tom Coventry, when asked about some of the pros and cons of his teams’ performance Saturday.

Harbour Rugby must ‘steel themselves’ ahead of Mitre 10 Cup three-match cycle

It was a performance of some good, but too much bad that the better organized Tasman Mako could maximize from. They scored key tries in the second and fourth quarters. Tries that had the Harbours side scrambling – while Coventry would want his side to learn lessons, those learnings must also be critical of a number failings.

“They covered most of our breaks well, maybe on a different day some of those things [like a Bryn Hall break-out] would have come off. We just needed to be able to build pressure in those key moments, There were a lot of our errors, that put ourselves under pressure,” was a conclusion reached by Coventry.

A good result for the visitors. It was the Mako’s first win in Albany since 2009, and proves that they are still one of the primary teams of 2018. Head coach Leon MacDonald – who is headed to the Blues franchise next season – spoke of his teams delight at three successive victories, but tempered that with realism of the early nature of this season.

“This is just the start, we’re only three games into it, so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves and there’s still plenty to work on”. That will be a fixture against Auckland, on Eden Park next Friday. It could be one of the earliest top-of-the-table clashes, in this years Mitre 10 Cup.

And so too for Harbour, with a two wins/one loss record, they must also stay positive. The side must ‘steel themselves’ ahead of Mitre 10 Cup three-match cycle; Wellington on Sunday | Canterbury on Wednesday | Bay of Plenty the following Sunday. Close games, that are each just as important as the other. Three times when this seasons group will be challenged.

Storm week must be the highlight of season for Harbour Rugby

The early evaluation by Tom Coventry was equally concerned, but also made a point that his side needed this early challenge. “It’s the first team that challenged us from the Premiership and they’re the front runners no doubt.

Harbour Rugby
Head Coach Tom Coventry of North Harbour looks on ahead of the round three Mitre 10 Cup match between North Harbour and Tasman at QBE Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

“So they’re a bit of a benchmark for us and we weren’t too far away. We didn’t play that well, but that was largely due to the pressure on us,” and it is how the Harbour side react with three matches in quick succession, that must be the highlight of the year – not a stumbling block.

After a narrow win over Northland, the improved performance over Waikato is the measure for this 2018 side. For the regular season to end up like the team has expected, then this period has to be one of success. Far too often, the challenges have mounted, and the Premiership side have not reacted positively. During their ascension from the Championship, the Steve Jackson team showed a consistent winning culture.

The 2018 vintage must too introduce that sense of expectation. To not look at three matches as a ‘tough part of the season’ but as a step in the right direction.

Winning teams face forward, so over the next 10 days, co-Captains Matt Duffie and James Parsons have to lead their side with a steel determination. Demonstrate that the newest vintage hold a more controlled appetite for victory – one set-back, might not necessarily be the end of the hopes of Harbour Rugby fans in 2018.

Wellington Lions v North Harbour – 2:05pm. Sunday Sept 9, Westpac Stadium

North Harbour v Canterbury – 7:35pm. Wednesday Sept 12, QBE Stadium

North Harbour v Bay of Plenty – 2:5pm. Sunday Sep 16, QBE Stadium

Three matches in a period of 10 days. It is a difficult task at best. Only a few teams have achieved a number of wins during that storm week.

Canterbury, who in the last few years have been the bench mark, have done so. And that means Wednesday September 12 is the most critical date of the calendar. Realize a home victory over the defending Mitre 10 Cup Champions, and it will lead to a surge of confidence.

But like any other season for North Harbour/Harbour Rugby, it is not an assured outcome. The side has developed a wealth of talent. A group Tom Coventry still has faith in. Fans of the side must too hold that same confidence, as they enter a vital stage of the year.

 

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