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Uawa-TVC clash an awesome prospect

RUGBY

Tomorrow could be cataclysmic.

The colossal jostle between Uawa and Tihirau Victory Club at Tolaga Bay is an awesome prospect.

Uawa, the home team, beat TVC of Cape Runaway 24-23 in front of 1200 fans to defend the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield last year, having defeated Tokararangi of Te Araroa to win the 2018 title 25-21 with 1500 in attendance.

Both of those finals had Uawa Domain rocking.

Competition leaders Tokararangi (28 points) have a bye and with all seven teams — bar TVC — in Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby being awarded five points for the cancellation of Week 3, two-time defending champions Uawa (21pts) have overtaken TVC (20pts).

Hicks Bay and Waiapu both have 11 points but no matter what the results may be tomorrow, they, Tokomaru Bay United (10pts) and Hikurangi (6pts) all want to finish the round-robin on a high note.

Hikurangi cannot make the 1 v 4, 2 v 3 semifinals next weekend — Hicks Bay, Waiapu and United can.

For Uawa and TVC, well-clear of the pack, Week 7 is about securing a home semi which for TVC would mean avoiding a two-and-a-half-hour trip — the longest in Coast rugby — back down State Highway 35 next Saturday.

One of Hicks Bay, Waiapu or United will make the trip to Te Araroa to face Tokararangi in 1 v 4.

Uawa head coach, tighthead prop Laman Davies, is “quietly confident” for his team’s game against TVC.

“TVC’s a sharp team and may still be hurting from last year’s loss,” Davies said.

“No doubt they want the George Keelan Memorial Shield back, too. We’ve done our homework; now we have to trust our systems.”

TVC, with four wins from five games, have played good rugby in this shortened season. Their player-coach, fetcher Moana Mato, and his people are settled.

“We’re focused on what’s ahead and intend to be physical — Uawa have big ball-carriers, and the likes of halfback Sam Parkes and fullback BJ Sidney are elusive and dangerous from broken play,” he said.

“This week’s been no different in terms of preparation. The top three teams have been consistent, and whoever the dark horse is — the fourth team — that’ll be interesting. You can’t take anyone for granted because it’s on-the-day performance that counts.”

Hooker Tuterangi Te Moana, lock Solomon Vaka, No.8 Hoani Te Moana, halfback Keegan Rowley, first five-eighth Verdon Bartlett and second-five Tutere Waenga are all the proven product with big-match temperament in abundance.

Mato expects tomorrow’s Uawa-TVC match to be fast-paced. It kicks off at 2.30pm, as do the Hicks Bay-United clash at Te Rahui o Te Rangi, Wharekahika, and the Waiapu-Hikurangi game at George Nepia Memorial Park in Rangitukia.

Uawa have by far the biggest forward pack in Coast rugby but, critically, they are as effective on a hard, fast track as they are in the wet. That said, every club going has a feisty pack and none — certainly not TVC — back down, even before the Adaam Ross-led Uawa eight.

Hard-working Hicks Bay manager Graeme Summersby is a gentleman and a scholar, and should tick the box “success” next to 2020.

Coach Aaron King’s Hicks Bay team have improved hugely since their 45-5 tune-up from Tokararangi on opening day. They lost a 25-24 thriller to Waiapu on July 25 but overcame that disappointment to beat Hikurangi 21-19 on August 1 — a fantastic testament to their resilience and team spirit, as close losses are often followed by larger ones.

King and Hicks Bay have old heads in key positions, forwards captain, blindside flanker Frank Taiapa, and backline general Sean Murtagh at centre to name but two. Openside flanker Brodie Heu, a veteran, and No.8 Anton King — never an easy man to bring down — give the pack a brawny appearance.

Aaron King said: “The focus of our last training session was backplay — being accurate there — because the boys know this game against United is crucial, do-or-die if we want to make the semis.

“The youngsters have impressed me every week with their bravery, stepping up, and we’ve got things in place for next year. We’d like to thank our supporters, sponsors and the ladies out the back — hosting well is very important to all clubs on the Coast.”

United captain and tighthead prop Mike Chambers-Raroa’s team contains a member whose ironman feats have flown under the radar for two weeks. Tomorrow, lock Mike Tiopira will play his 252nd game for the club.

“(Coaches) Kuru Gray and Lisa Muller have been good for the boys,” Tiopira said.

“We’ve come together. Manager Ronnie Babbington’s sons Api Ngerengere and Liam Babbington-Ngerengere played for us earlier this season and her nephews Saul and Uzi Parata are still playing for us.”

Tiopira’s first coach at United was the late Jimmy “Bebop” Aupouri and his first captain, from No.8, was legendary Ngati Porou East Coast skipper Wirihania Raihania.

“We’ve enjoyed the season — we’ve got at least 17 Tokomaru Bay-based players plus at least eight from town . . . good numbers.”

Those are good numbers but they don’t compare to Tiopira’s 18 straight seasons, or the fact that he’s missed only seven games during that period. Whoever of Hicks Bay, United or Waiapu bow out tomorrow, and however that comes about, one thing is certain.

They’ll make them tackle — and be tackled — lustily before they do.

Joe McClutchie doesn’t gild the lily.

But the Waiapu coach recognises that his young team, led by captain and halfback Hamuera Baker, want to wear the jersey.

“The boys could have done with more rugby — we’ve had the numbers this year — and though we’re rebuilding, they’ve committed themselves to Waiapu,” McClutchie said.

“Hamuera brings a lot of experience and knowledge from his time in Palmerston North but his heart’s here in Rangitukia.

“We’re going to complete the season, and our aim is to end it on a high note. Our backs spin the ball; they can run from anywhere.”

Tighthead prop Pera Bishop, fetcher Richard Green and big No.8 Gabe Te Kani need to fire tomorrow for that to happen. Opposing them will be Hikurangi, The Maunga (mountain), and deferring to Waiapu is not in their plan.

The George Reedy-coached Hikurangi are coming off the ultimate game of two halves: 24-0 down at the break, they conceded only one try in the next 40 minutes. Their regular captain, openside flanker Tanetoa Parata, will be back, and he, tighthead prop Drummond Morice and company will do all in their power to get just one win for the season in their last outing.

The lengths to which they will go to achieve that bear thinking about.