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Uawa v TVC expected to be a battle royal

Good Friday is a time for reflection . . . and our national game.

Round 2 of the Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby competition opens with Uawa hosting Tihirau Victory Club at Uawa Domain in Tolaga Bay tomorrow.

That game kicks off at 2.30pm, as will Saturday's clashes — Hicks Bay v Hikurangi at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti in Wharekahika and Ruatoria City v Tokomaru Bay United at Whakarua Park in Ruatoria.

Referee Jackson Reuben-Swinton will be in the middle tomorrow and at Wharekahika a day later, while Eruera Kawhia will control the City-United match.

Uawa will field close to a full-strength team for what could be the biggest game of the weekend.

TVC captain and openside flanker Mo Mato spoke of the trip from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay.

“We dread the travel but look forward to the game,” he said. “Uawa play up-tempo structured rugby, with a big forward pack and speedsters out wide,” he said.

“Sam Parkes (who played at halfback, then second-five in Uawa's 30-13 win over Hicks Bay last weekend) is fast and elusive and we want to keep the ball away from fullback BJ Sidney if he's playing.

“We're focused on our attack this week. This will be a big step up.”

TVC loosehead prop Tuamutu Poihipi made a strong debut in his side's 81-0 demolition of United last week.

Fullback Ash Dixon will make his debut tomorrow.

No.8 Hoani Te Moana and first-five Verdon Bartlett — tireless servants of TVC rugby — will again provide the quality and breadth of experience money can't buy in either the whites-of-their-eyes stuff or out wider when opportunity knocks.

Uawa captain lock Scott Lasenby has a high regard for TVC and he and his men have no intention of giving up the George Keelan Memorial Trophy played for between the sides.

“It's always a good battle between us and TVC,” said Lasenby.

“They're a good team who have played together for a few years and are clinical in all aspects of the game.”

City did not field a team last season but their last game at Whakarua Park (on April 27, 2019), despite being a 48-26 loss to Tihirau Victory Club, was a memorable one.

Loosehead prop Tim Barbarich's side played with guts, passion and skill, and fullback Quentin Takarangi scored a hat-trick of tries.

Lisa Muller, who in 2019 with Ruatoria City became the first women's coach of an East Coast men's club side, is back at the helm after being assistant coach to Tokomaru Bay United's Kuru Gray last year.

In her team's ranks tomorrow will be Tanetoa Parata, captain of Ruatoria City's sister club Hikurangi last year.

A fearless back-row forward, 28 year-old Parata played his 100th game for The Maunga (Mountain) against TVC in a 15-5 loss on July 11 last year.

He has played sub-union rugby and sevens for City previously but tomorrow will be his 15-a-side debut for the club of his paternal grandfather Ron Parata — his maternal grandfather Wally Morice having been a Hikurangi man.

United will be determined to make a good showing away from home, having struck TVC in their pomp to start the season.

They last tasted victory in Week 2 of the 2020 competition —17-13 v Waiapu at George Nepia Memorial Park in Rangitukia — but have it in them to spring a surprise on their hosts.

Hikurangi coach Matt Richards knows where The Maunga's strengths lie. Captain loosehead prop Winiata Blane, hooker Hone Brooking and tighthead Putahi Morice all played 80 minutes in last weekend's 26-10 loss to Tokararangi and will need to do their thing before left-wing Tari Ao Tuhura-Stevenson, right-wing Hone Manuel and fullback Fabyan Kahaki can do theirs.

Stevenson is a thrilling player when given quality ball and room, and young halfback Daniel Low can supply that.

Coach Richards is looking for a big effort, not just from the tyros who start the game, but also the reserves bench who brought great energy in Week 1.

Tokararangi have the bye.