Poverty Bay in ‘cauldron from the beginning’
FROM the frying pan into the fire.
Poverty Bay began the Heartland Championship by playing against the 2018 Meads Cup champions, then the beaten finalists, and now they’re taking on a rugby team who have started their 2019 campaign with two wins from two games.
North Otago are Poverty Bay’s opponents at Rugby Park tomorrow and they won’t be short of confidence.
They had three forwards away with the New Zealand Heartland XV last week and still got the job done against Wairarapa Bush, winning 25-11.
That win came after they defeated South Canterbury, who were too good for Poverty Bay last weekend.
Poverty Bay coach Tom Cairns said North Otago looked to be one of the form teams in the competition.
“They’ve had two good wins over two good teams,” he said.
“They’re a quality team with a massive forward pack and robust backs.
“We’re expecting a torrid encounter.”
Contract Consultants Poverty Bay toppled champions Thames Valley in Round 1, before putting up a mixed performance against Meads Cup 2018 runners-up South Canterbury at home last week, losing 40-29.
It gets no easier for the Bay tomorrow. North Otago are second on the points table, behind West Coast.
“We’ve been thrown in the cauldron from the beginning,” Cairns said.
He has pointed out, however, that the competition is relatively even and he is looking to “build” a successful side as the season goes along.
Poverty Bay are one of seven teams in the championship with one win, a loss and a bonus point.
Impressive second five-eighth Mark Atkins comes into the side tomorrow, partnering with livewire centre Ethine Reeves in the midfield backs and outside Tane McGuire, who has again been picked at first-five.
Willy Grogan starts at halfback and Mario Counsell, the starting halfback for the first two games, goes to the substitutes bench.
Ngatapa utility back Matt Raleigh, who had two appearances for Poverty Bay last season, has been named at left wing, with Scotty McKinley on the right wing.
No.8 Tamanui Hill returns and Quade Tapsell shifts back to the blindside flank.
Tapsell trained with the All Blacks this week — giving them a workout ahead of tomorrow’s test against Tonga — and came through that well enough to play again for the Bay.
Semisi Akana and Toru Noanoa are the starting props, with Lance Dickson on the bench and Jody Allen away with the New Zealand Defence Force team.
OBM first-five Jake Holmes and lock Jacob Cook have been named on the bench.
North Otago coach Jason Forrest said his squad had been together “for a while” and they had worked hard in the pre-season.
North Otago had a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Otago in July, losing 49-14.
Forrest said Poverty Bay were a “seriously good side”.
“There are no easy games this year,” he said. “We’ve got to front up.”
Their scrum was dominant against Wairarapa Bush and Poverty Bay will be doing well if they contain it.
“Our set piece has been pretty good,” Forrest said.
North Otago are, however, without veteran midfield back Lemi Masoe, who has played over 100 first-class games and is nearing the century for North Otago.
Clement Gasca should slot in comfortably at centre.
Tomorrow’s game, to be refereed by Hugh Reed, starts at 2.30pm.
POVERTY BAY: Andrew Tauatevalu, Scotty McKinley, Ethine Reeves, Mark Atkins, Matt Raleigh, Tane McGuire, Willy Grogan, Tamanui Hill, Adrian Wyrill, Quade Tapsell, Gabe Te Kani, Ken Houkamau (captain), Semisi Akana, Rikki Terekia, Toru Noanoa.
Reserves: Matekaeroa McGuire, Lance Dickson, Jacob Cook, Will Bolingford, Nicolas Carrizo, Mario Counsell, Jake Holmes.
NORTH OTAGO: Patrick Pati, Howard Packman, Clement Gasca, Samuel Tatupu, Adam Johnson, Michael Williams, Robbie Smith, Josh Clark, Jacob Coghlan, Jake Greenslade, William Kirkwood, Charles Elton, Melikisua Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess (captain), Kelepi Funaki.
Reserves: Hayden Tisdall, Ralph Darling, Joshua Hayward, Manulua Taiti, Anthony Arty, Lachlan Kingan, Taina Tamou.