Focus on the Land
No place like home
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
RUGBY - NGATI Porou East Coast player-coach Ngarimu Simpkins has laughed off the suggestion they forfeit home advantage for the sake of attracting a bigger crowd to their Heartland Championship Meads Cup semifinal on Saturday.
Gisborne’s Rugby Park grandstand was a sea of blue and white here at the weekend when the Coast beat Poverty Bay 24-14 to secure a home (Ruatoria) semifinal against North Otago.
“That was one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen this season but there’s no way we would ever consider not playing this weekend at Whakarua Park,” Simpkins said.
“It’s our home ground. It’s part of who we are and one of our goals at the start of the season was to get a home semifinal. It’s a huge achievement and a huge drawcard. We’re hoping our people come out in big numbers.
“Playing in Ruatoria and in front of our supporters could be what gets us over the line and into a home final.
“Before last weekend’s game, Rua (Tipoki, Coast assistant coach and second five-eighth) said we had three big games left . . . now’s there only two to go. We haven’t played North Otago this season but I’ve been watching them on television, and they look a solid side. They’ll also be coming here looking for revenge after we beat them at the same stage on their home ground last year.”
Despite defeating the Bay in sensational style with two Mike King tries in the last two minutes, Simpkins said he had a tough decision to make regarding the 22 for the semifinal.
“I’m expecting Tanetoa Parata (flanker) and Tom Teaki (winger)to be fit for selection, and Mutu Ngarimu (loose forward) has joined the squad as cover.”
Tanetoa was to start against the Bay but was ruled out on Saturday morning with a groin strain, with Frank Taiapa wearing the No.6 jersey.
“This is Frank’s first year at this level but I’ve been impressed with the way he’s adapted to the step up in level.
“He needs to tighten up on some of his core roles but he stepped up last week when Junior (Morgan Wirepa) couldn’t play.”
Winger Teaki was a key player for the Coast last season when they reached the final but injuries have restricted his appearances this season.
King put up his hand for a place in the squad with his two five-pointers.
“Mike’s a bit of a local hero at the moment and he certainly didn’t do his chances any harm,” said Simpkins. “Rua and me will have a look at the attitude of the players at training this week — see who wants to wear the jersey — and then make our decisions.”
Tipoki had treatment for a groin strain yesterday but is hopeful of being fit to face North Otago.
“It didn’t feel good when I did it near the end but it’s a bit better today,” he said yesterday. “But we’ve got the players to come in and do the job. Look at what happened at the weekend.”
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