ITM Cup: Turbos charged with cutting flaws

By Anendra Singh

Two wins from eight games and the Manawatu Turbos are mindful their ailments are not too different from the Hawke's Bay Magpies' one for much of this season.

"We've been making too many errors so it's been pretty costly especially with the opposition out wide," a sombre Manawatu coach Jason O'Halloran says before they host the Magpies at the FMG Stadium from 2.35pm tomorrow in Palmerston North.

"We need to look after the ball a little better," says the former Hurricanes, Lions and "12-minute-old" All Black midfielder.

Just as well O'Halloran is adept at rolling with the punches, revealing the home media has justifiably scored a few uppercuts against Manawatu on the foundation of their mediocrity that has yielded only victories against Northland (33-20) in Whangarei and North Harbour (23-20) in Albany.

The scribes, he feels, are simply doing their job and the only way to take the venom out of the poison pen is to find the antidote - post wins.

He is thankful for the loyalty the Bucket Head brigade has shown despite the prolonged drought.

"The fans have been pretty good so we want to put on a pretty decent performance for them."

It isn't lost on O'Halloran that they have yet to win on their home turf this ITM Cup season, considering the lower-tier championship campaigners were unbeaten last winter until it came down to the playoffs against second qualifiers Magpies, slumping 35-30 despite finishing on the top rung of the ladder.

If that hurt is still gnawing away on the inside O'Halloran isn't saying, keeping his emotions in check after the Peter Russell and Tom Coventry co-coached Hawke's Bay gained promotion to the top tier Premiership of the National Provincial Championship.

"We are a bit miffed as to why our form at home isn't there but it was a one-off loss at home last year so we're highly motivated to turn the table this Saturday," O'Halloran says.

While the task tomorrow seems daunting, he believes the Craig Philpott and Danny Lee-coached visitors will have to be held accountable up front.

Not letting the Mike Coman-captained Magpies control proceedings in the set pieces of scrums and lineouts is paramount.

He knows the Magpies are equally "desperate" to win to stave off a demotion as they languish at the bottom of the premiership table with the Bay of Plenty Steamers on 14 points despite a try-less 21-15 victory over Otago in Napier last Saturday.

"We respect Hawke's Bay who are a proud union who will bring an abrasive approach so it should be a good spectacle."

Igniting the fuse of the Turbos' backs, he believes, will be elementary although the hosts are terribly missing the slick moves of All Blacks Aaron Cruden and Aaron Smith.

The high-octane 51-35 loss to Otago at home on Tuesday epitomised their tendency to start slow this season, something that stuck out against North Harbour, too.

"We drop off tackles too many times and made a poor decision in the 70th minute [against Otago]."

The overriding issue, he feels, is coaches' inability to prepare teams.

"We have three or four days to turnaround teams so you can't do much with the boys who are banged up and sore."

Instead, O'Halloran ushers his squad into the classroom to expose them to video footage in the hope the pictures will remain etched in their minds once they run on to the field.

Fundamentally he wants his players to take more ownership as individuals.

"They need to take the right attitude and put their shoulders into people."

Finishing on a high tomorrow will leave the Turbos in a good space as O'Halloran is already looking at building on incremental gains next season.

"I'd hate to think in 2013 we'll be having the same issues with defence and ball control," says the man who is in his maiden stint as head coach after serving as Dave Rennie's assistant and technical adviser over the past few years.

Despite the poor results O'Halloran is enjoying his stint.

"We've have had a lot of challenges and many good times so they are a good bunch of boys who give their guts out there."

Magpies first five-eighth Andrew Horell, who injured an ankle last Saturday, and his fitness will be confirmed during the captain's run at McLean Park, Napier, today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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