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The East Coast experience

RUGBY

It’s the East Coast rugby experience for the Taniwha.

The Northland Development 15 under head coach Corey Anderson, manager Mick Sweetman and captain and blindside flanker Aorangi Stokes arrived at Hinepare Marae yesterday afternoon, and today has been an eye-opener.

The programme included visits to the 94-year-old St Mary’s Church — which was built, at the instigation of Sir Apirana Ngata, on the site of Pukemaire pa as a memorial to those who fell in the Great War — and to the East Cape lighthouse 21 kilometres out of Te Araroa.

After that, came a training run at George Nepia Memorial Park in Rangitukia, the venue for tomorrow’s match against Ngati Porou East Coast.

Tonight’s entertainment, the Northland senior side’s Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay at McLean Park in Napier, will be taken in at the Tikitiki RSA.

As far as the rugby goes, from 2.30pm tomorrow, East Coast referee Eruera Kawhia and his assistants Jackson Reuben-Swinton and Shirley Mullany, will control two well-prepared teams.

The Development 15, led by Old Boys-Marist’s Stokes, features hooker Ben Tou — who debuted in the Mitre 10 Cup this year — and big No.8 Isi Manu in their powerful forward pack.

Former Poverty Bay speedster Brody Lam will start on the right wing for Northland, with Mid-Northern’s “White Rhino” Jack Colebourne on the left wing.

It is a good Northland side. The Coast, who lost to King Country last Saturday, have an experienced set of forwards plus up-and-comers in the backline.

Hamuera Moana (Waiapu) is a good halfback, second-five Tawhao Stewart proved against the Bay here that he can spot, then hit a gap, and fullback Verdon Bartlett’s creativity and timing make him a dangerous man.

Big men Riki Waitoa and Hoani Te Moana will give the Coast muscle off the bench. Both are capable in any of the second-row or back-row positions. Richard Green is another powerful reserve forward, while the elusive Benny Haerewa and thumping ball-carrier Pamona Samupo will test Northland’s defence if opportunity knocks.

Head coach Hosea Gear is keyed up.

“I just want to say thank you to all of our supporters, communities and players,” he said.

“These are trying times for some people, and our players have made huge sacrifices to make themselves available for games and training. Without the support of their whanau we would have struggled to field a team, so also we thank them.

“I’m gutted I haven’t been able to support my boys as much as I would’ve liked, but as much as they think I inspire them, they inspire me more and make me want to be a better person and coach, through their attitude and persistence.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group. Now I want them to go out there and enjoy themselves against quality opposition.”

NGATI POROU EAST COAST: Mike Chambers-Raroa, Perrin Manuel, Putahi Morice, Netani Seruwaqa, Frank Taiapa, Trent Proffit, Moana Mato, Hone Haerewa (c), Hamuera Moana, Rapata Haerewa, Mohi Bartlett, Tawhao Stewart, Tutere Waenga, Fabyan Kahaki, Verdon Bartlett. Reserves: Tahu Walker, Hirini Delamere, Raniera Whakataka, Riki Waitoa, Hoani Te Moana, Richard Green, Tanetoa Parata, Te Rangi Fraser, Keegan Rowley, Benny Haerewa, Pamona Samupo, Te Aho Haenga, Taleq Simeon.

NORTHLAND DEVELOPMENT 15: Tom Stevens, Ben Tou, Willy Matafa, Fano Funaki, Te Rapai King, Aorangi Stokes (c), Sage Walters, Isi Manu, Jayden Kemp, Brady Rush, Jack Colebourne, Phil Manako, Patrick Ella, Brody Lam, Shay Te Haara. Reserves: Curtis Toapuho, Michael Tuiloma, Gill Cann-Vanna, Nathan Taylor, Ngaru Jones, Manny Snooks, Malachi Reweti.