Injuries for the Northland Taniwha are mounting as the side prepares for their last Mitre 10 Cup game against Otago on Sunday in Whangārei.
Going down 52-6 at Nelson's Trafalgar Park today against Tasman, Northland's Scott Gregory and Sam Caird retreated to the bench in the first half. Gregory, who looked dynamic on defence early on, failed a head injury assessment after about 17 minutes.
Caird, a Northland lock, had to head back to the sheds after just 32 minutes. Northland first five Jack Debreczeni also went down injured but stayed on the park after his right ankle was heavily strapped.
Gregory and Caird's early departure from today's game could mean an addition to the 10 Northland players who were unavailable to play against Tasman due to injury.
Today's heavy loss to the competition's frontrunners was the eighth consecutive loss for the Taniwha and the seventh game conceding 40 points or more. Despite the scoreline, the visitors showed a lot of heart to keep Tasman's lead to 19-6 at halftime.
Northland halfback Will Grant, who earned his first start of the season after an injury ruled out usual starter Sam Nock, looked impressive on defence and his workrate certainly aided his side's ambition to stay in the match.
The defensive effort of Grant and others was able to contain a dangerous Tasman backline during the first half. With one game left until a home semifinal, Tasman won't have been happy with some of their finishing yesterday but to score over 50 points in front of a home crowd would have pleased the staff upstairs.
Both teams were locked in a tough battle at the start of the second half and it showed on the scoreline with Tasman only scoring one try in the first 27 minutes of the first half.
Northland fans would have been happy to see 2019's appointed captain Jordan Olsen return to the field in the second half. A reserve hooker today, Olsen had been injured since the game against Canterbury almost a month ago and his return would have buoyed Taniwha supporters ahead of next weekend's game.
However, Olsen's introduction could do nothing to stop the Mako avalanche bearing down on the Taniwha as the home side went on to score four tries in the final 13 minutes of the game.
Today's Northland captain Ross Wright, playing in his 96th game for the Taniwha, said in a televised post-match interview he was proud of what his team put out on the park.
"I think we showed today that we can play a bit of rugby, but a good Tasman team showed us how to play rugby."
The Taniwha prop said it was encouraging to see the team's younger players getting some good game time ahead of their last game of the season against Otago on Sunday at Semenoff Stadium, kickoff 2.05pm.
Tasman 52 (Will Jordan 2, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Sione Havili Talitui, Jamie Spowart, Wyatt Crockett, Tim O'Malley, Taina Fox-Matamua tries; Hunt 6 con) beat Northland 6 (Jack Debreczeni 2 pen)