East Coast round-up
Uawa have set the standard for two years.
And all indications are, that under head coach Laman Davies, they will continue to be hard to beat.
Week 2 of Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby features three juicy contests: Uawa v Tokararangi at Uawa Domain, Waiapu v Tokomaru Bay United at George Nepia Memorial Park and Hikurangi v Tihirau Victory Club at Kahuitara.
TVC, Uawa and Tokararangi savoured success last Saturday with bonus point-wins, having scored four tries. Hikurangi are placed fourth, with Hicks Bay, United and Waiapu in spots five to seven.
Uawa’s Laman Davies sees Tokararangi as dangerous.
“Our games against Tokararangi in the past few years have been close,” he said.
“Tthey have a good leader in Hone Haerewa and we’re still coming to grips with each other — the old hands and the ‘newbies’.”
Captain and right wing BJ Sidney, centre Jordan Birch, fullback George Shields, loosehead prop Davies and No.8 Adaam Ross form the stable base that other teams must envy. The big Uawa pack are mobile and technically savvy.
To counter that, Tokararangi captain Hone Haerewa will need to win good-quality ball jumping at the front or back of the lineout. Young lock Kyah Hollis could be another source of quality possession.
Haerewa said: “I trust our physicality and ability to drop them where they stand. Uawa are a skilful team across the whole paddock, so we’ll take it as as it comes, trust our strengths, and the result will look after itself.”
The old masters are coaching teams again — which is a very good thing.
Head coach George Reedy was delighted with the turn-out and work ethic of Hikurangi at last night’s training — a final run before their season opener at home to Tihirau Victory Club at Kahuitara.
Waiapu’s new head coach, East Coast legend Joe McClutchie, sees his young team as being capable of great things.
Hikurangi captain and blindside flanker Tanetoa Parata, openside flanker Tapui Blane and his brother — loosehead prop Winiata Blane — and a new player at No.8 whom Reedy has described as his “secret weapon” have all attuned themselves to instruction and are ready to compete for possession and position in every phase of play.
Halfback Nathan Ratahi-Brown, left wing Fabyan Kahaki and fullback Aho Morice can’t wait to get their hands on the ball.
TVC player-coach Mo Mato respects Hikurangi too much to ever take them lightly.
“We’re focusing on our line speed in defence, our structure — there are always areas to improve in,” he said.
“Tawhao Stewart comes in at second-five, so I’m moving to openside flanker.”
Two other heroes of TVC — No.8 Hoani Te Moana and fullback Benny Haerewa — will bring a wealth of experience and solid performances to the table also.
Mato spoke with feeling about TVC’s team run last night: “We trained well until we had a power cut — then it was car lights for the next 45 minutes.”
Joe McClutchie coached the East Coast to the third division national title in 1999.
“These boys are having to working hard — playing for Waiapu, keeping the club going, means a great deal to them and the community,” McClutchie said.
“They’re up against strong teams who’ve been together for quite a while. We’ll nurture them and in a year or two, they’ll come right: they enjoy their rugby, and that’s the most important thing.”
Waiapu captain and halfback Hamuera Baker is understood to have strained both of his hamstrings. If so, he may miss this weekend’s action. The prospect of being in a winning Waiapu team has great appeal; the 73-0 loss to TVC at Cape Runaway in Week 1 is not going to slow Waiapu down now.
They, like Tokomaru Bay United — who lost 56-0 to Uawa last Saturday — know that other teams are setting the pace, and they might instead look at their own preparation, the high points in their play. Some are rebuilding their club’s rugby strength, a thing as important to their supporters as any single victory.