RUGBY - HAWKE’S Bay players Andrew Gardner, Adam Ross and Henry Yortt have been outstanding value to Poverty Bay, says coach Grainger Heikell
No.8 Gardner — younger brother of former Ngatapa and Bay first five Tim Gardner — and hooker Yortt make their sixth appearances for the Bay against South Canterbury at Rugby Park tomorrow at 2.30pm.
Halfback Ross made his debut two weeks ago and scored two tries in a 31-13 win against West Coast. He backed that up with another two tries in last week’s 24-23 loss to North Otago.
“We’re delighted with the performances and attitude of all three,” Heikell said. “Andrew picked up an ankle injury against West Coast but he’s the type of guy who puts it out of his mind and battles on.
“Henry is a very good footballer who is getting better with each game. Our lineouts are functioning well and that has a lot to do with his throwing in, and his timing with the lifters and jumpers.”
Heikell has bracketed Gisborne Boys’ High openside flanker Toa Halafihi with Josh Hart after Halafihi injured an ankle last week.
“We’ve also bracketed Simon Versteeg (prop) and Campbell Chrisp. Simon has had the flu this week but apart from that, and Russell Burns coming on to the bench for Jed Miller, it’s the same line-up as last week,” Heikell said.
“I’ve had a good look at a video of that game and we played a lot of good rugby for 60 to 65 minutes. We need to play for 80 tomorrow, get up on defence and take whatever opportunities we create.
“South Canterbury have some big ball carriers and lively backs. We have to make our tackles.”
The Bay need to win their remaining three games to make the Meads Cup top four playoffs.
“South Canterbury are a side who can be dangerous if given the opportunity and they’re our main focus. We’re not worried about the other two games at this stage.”
Although the visitors will start favourites virtue of being three places above the Bay, Heikell’s side showed in their last appearance at the Park that they cannot be taken lightly.
Blindside flanker Sione Ngatu is one of the best No.6s in the competition and will notch his 102nd game for the Bay tomorrow.
Locks Murray Hewson and Jason Tuapawa are no nonsense, hard-working players, with Tuapawa having an eye for the tryline.
The pressure will be on the front row of Versteeg/Chrisp, Yortt and Jone Lesi to set the tone. If the pack matches or betters its opposites, the Bay have a backline capable of scoring tries.
South Canterbury opened the season with a 32-21 loss to competition leaders Wairarapa Bush then thumped Ngati Porou East Coast 37-9. They backed that up with a 42-37 win against Thames Valley and posted a half-century of points in defeating North Otago 52-37.
Just as they were shaping up as the team to beat, they got knocked over 45-32 by Buller last weekend.
“They are scoring a lot of points but conceding a lot which I’m sure they will be working on,” Heikell said.
South Canterbury coach Chester Scott has a hard-working pack in which captain and prop Matt Fetu, No.6 Sam Vea and openside flanker Eric Smith have been consistent performers.
In the backs, second five Fa’aitu Tuamoheloa is making his 103rd appearance for the green and blacks.
Fullback Liam Edwards is a lively counter-attacker while halfback Sekope Maea is a dangerous runner.
POVERTY BAY: Simon Versteeg/Campbell Chrisp, Henry Yortt, Jone Lesi, Murray Hewson, Jason Tuapawa, Sione Ngatu, Toa Halafihi/Josh Hart, Andrew Gardner, Adam Ross, Scott Leighton (c), Sione Tupa, Nick Wilson, Paul Tikomainaivalu, David Philander, Kelvin Smith.
Reserves: Russell Burns, Versteeg/Chrisp, Josese Bolabasaga, Tevita Maka/Hart, Moss Doran, Pamona Samupo.