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Successful Tasman B campaign provides depth to Mako

The Tasman Mako don’t have to look far for fresh talent if their Mitre 10 Cup squad needs bolstering at the business end of their competition.

BY PETER JONES [Marlborough App]

The Tasman B team have just concluded a highly-successful four-match programme, the Mako feeder side providing plenty of match-fit options for NPC opportunities.

Tasman B, coached this year by Gray Cornelius, with help from Glen Blackmore and Kane Hames, downed their counterparts from Otago, Canterbury, Wellington and Southland. 

Adding to that accomplishment was the fact three of the four fixtures were played away from home. 

They beat Otago B 51-16 in Christchurch, Canterbury B 33-27, also in Christchurch, Wellington B 46-39 in the capital and Southland 57-31 in Nelson last weekend.

Cornelius, the long-serving coach of the Marlborough Boys’ College First XV, enjoyed the step up to senior level. 

"We went through quite a few players, because obviously a big part of why we had these games was to make sure the guys who were fringe players [for the Mako] had rugby. 

"We never knew who we were going to have from one week to the next,  which was good and bad, but we had a solid core of 13-14 players who were there every game so that helped.”

Several players stood out throughout the Tasman B campaign, including loose forward Jake Norris, who made his Mako debut against Wellington on Saturday. 

Cornelius also mentioned the work of Renwick midfielder Mike Vaeno, Central winger Timoci Tavatavanawai, Waimea Old Boys lock Lemeki Cagialau and Stoke winger Tomas Aoake.

"We had a pretty sharp backline … they wouldn’t have gone astray playing NPC rugby,” added Cornelius, who said his step up from schoolboy rugby was made easier by the fact several of the players had already been involved in the wider Mako set-up pre-season and offered plenty of experience.

"In the junior stuff you have got to guide the players through everything, hold their hand to some extent, so in that regard it was easier coaching the older fellas, who came with more prior knowledge.

"The boys performed with a lot of freedom … we weren’t playing for the World Cup so we emphasized the fact they could go out there and play without fear. We scored a lot of tries – and conceded a fair few, but came up with some good rugby along the way.”

He sees a regular place for a Tasman B side in the rugby calendar. 

"The Mitre 10 Cup is a battle of attrition sometimes so you have got to have guys playing rugby – you can’t call on players who aren’t match fit."