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Umaga: Less talk, more action

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Saturday, August 31, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

High energy is what the Steelers game is based around, but in two of their three outings this year it seems to have been left behind in the changing room.

Wellington was first to exploit the lack of enthusiasm, notching half-a-century, while the Makos strolled out of ECOLight Stadium with their own bonus point win thanks to Tom Marshall's late try.

Hopes of a finals berth faded slightly as it became apparent that Counties' forwards did not bring their physical edge with them when they were promoted to the Premiership.

They were bullied off their own ball at the breakdown and there was no platform for the likes of Frank Halai, Bundee Aki and Sherwin Stowers to work from at scrums and lineouts.

On top of that was the poor discipline which handed Tasman debutant Marty Banks (20 points) eight penalty shots at goal.

It was a huge contrast to what Counties fans saw against North Harbour a week previously. In hindsight, that 44-14 thrashing was probably a false indicator that last year's razzle dazzlers were back.

It may have also led the players into a false sense of security. After all, it should have been a routine win over a Championship team which was down on confidence after being beaten by Canterbury.

"You think you've done everything in preparation and we looked pretty sharp [in training]. Obviously we weren't as sharp as we could have been tonight," Umaga said.

As if the sight of fans heading for the gates early wasn't punishment enough, All Black hooker Hika Elliot (concussion) has joined a crowded sick bay where first-five Baden Kerr is recovering from a hematoma that ruled him out prior to kickoff.

"It's our turn with injuries, that's just how it is. We were lucky last year and this year we're not so lucky," said Umaga

"You've just got to keep going. Obviously we have faith in the crew coming through and we just hope that they can fill the holes, but it is testing our depth."

Backup first-five Ki Anufe needed to step up but was absent from training early in the week, forcing Umaga to throw Ahsee Tuala, usually a winger, the No 10 jersey.

"We just pulled Ki in at the last minute and it's obviously not ideal for him. You could see that he was a little bit lost our there when he came on," said Umaga.

With Tim Nanai-Williams and Mahonri Schwalger unavailable with injuries sustained during the Super Rugby season, the Steelers were well aware of how difficult their challenge had become.

That's why watching them fail to match the efforts of Tasman has Umaga well and truly baffled.

Clearly frustrated, the former All Blacks captain may have a few harsh words for those who aren't performing as they prepare to face Auckland on Wednesday.

"To be honest, apart from our captain [Fritz Lee] and Bundee Aki, some guys need to probably take a leaf out of their book and follow them," he said.

"We were just slow of the mark in everything. We [coaches] talked about it and they [players] talked about it on the field.

"But you can only talk for so long and then you've got to put it into action and today we just weren't actioning anything."