Changes for Coast
Well might they hunker down.
With wet weather predicted, the Thames Valley Swampfoxes host a rapidly improving Ngati Porou East Coast tomorrow from 1pm at Paeroa Domain.
The Coast are growing in confidence game by game three weeks into the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship.
But for Buller reserve fullback Tim Manawatu’s intercept at Victoria Square, Sky Blues first five-eighth Sam Parkes would have scored the Coast’s fourth, bonus point-try in the season opener. Given just five more minutes, the Wayne Ensor-coached team might have pipped Mid-Canterbury at Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park.
As it is, Buller beat the Coast 54-19 and the Jon Dampney-led Hammers got out of Dodge, 22-15.
Regarding Coast personnel tomorrow: Hakarangi Tichborne is on New Zealand Army team duty, and Uawa strongman Laman Davies will go to loosehead prop; player of origin Perrin Manuel moves from 3 to hooker and Ruatoria City’s Pera Bishop is the starting tighthead. Front-row reserves who were not in the 22 for the Mid-Canterbury game — Dan Knubley and John Brown — will be on the bench in Week 3. The unavailability of Zane King requires that Verdon Bartlett go from the right wing to fullback in King’s stead, so youngster William Martin is to wear 14.
Thames Valley head coach Matt Bartleet said that last year the Coast scrum was “a beast”.
“They’ve got huge talent, also huge men who can grind,” he said.
“If they get on the front foot, we’re in for a long day. Our aim is to keep the tempo up, be system-focused, and make each tackle count.”
Bartleet is in his third season with the Swampfoxes, the 2018 Meads Cup champions. They will be without regular skipper and blindside flanker Brett Ranga. In for him is bruiser Laulea Mau, and Mau’s Thames teammate Ryan Leopold is to take his place in the reserves.
The Swampfoxes will be led tomorrow by co-captains lock Connor McVerry and halfback Ben Bonnar.
History favours the home team, who have won 27 of 45 matches played against the Coast since 1931, when East Coast drew first blood at home, 5-3. The Coast have been victorious 14 times, the last win, 53-38, coming at Paeroa on September 29, 2012. The Valley won the last meeting 42-13 two years ago in Ruatoria and the last game played at Paeroa, 50-11, in 2015.
The visitors have a win away from home in them but they do not want to play from behind. It is in this area that the head-down, rear-end-up application of a (lock) Scott Lasenby and the unpredictability — even X factor — of a Bartlett thrives under leadership by example.
Captain and blindside flanker Hone Haerewa and other senior players may have to make some of their hardest yards of the season a few hours from now because rain is forecast for tomorrow, overcast conditions with a high of 15 degrees; strong sou’westerlies are also expected.
“Last week, there were a lot of positives,” Haerewa said.
“We made some massive hits in defence and the feeling that our new boys got from playing at home — plus the desire to take that away on the road with us — helps us.”
NPEC head coach Wayne Ensor, who won 63 Poverty Bay caps between 1995 and 2003, will tomorrow return to Paeroa Domain for the first time since coming off the bench in the second half against the Valley on September 16, 1995 — a 33-25 win to the Swampfoxes in the NPC third division final.
“Thames Valley have proved they can turn a result around — I’m not surprised,” he said, in reference to Contract Consultants Poverty Bay’s 17-15 win at Paeroa in Week 1 and the Valley’s taming of Wanganui 36-30 at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.
“We were close to a win last week but everyone has to raise their game by 10 percent; all front up, be in the right frame of mind for a good performance. The team dynamic is really good, the guys who’ve joined this group have brought something to the environment. We’re all on the same page.”
In charge of the Coast-Thames Valley game at Paeroa Domain from 1pm tomorrow for his 39th first-class appointment will be 30-year-old referee Angus Mabey of Auckland. He controlled the Taranaki-Tasman Mitre 10 Cup match at New Plymouth last Sunday. He will be assisted by Valley officials James Higgins (assistant referee No.1) and AJ Hartley (AR2).
NGATI POROU EAST COAST: Laman Davies, Wyntah Riki, Pera Bishop, Scott Lasenby, Adaam Ross, Hone Haerewa (captain), Trent Proffit, Mitchell Crosswell, Hamuera Baker, Chris Richardson, Epeli Lotawa, Tawhao Stewart, Zac Guildford, William Martin, Verdon Bartlett.
Reserves: Dan Knubley, John Brown, Anton King, Hoani Te Moana, Sam Parkes, David Manuel, Ben Haerewa.
THAMES VALLEY SWAMPFOXES: Lance McIntyre, Glen McIntyre, Sitiveni Tupo, Sione To’a, Connor McVerry (co-captain), Laulea Mau, Fred Kei Fotofili, Matty Axtens, Ben Bonnar (co-captain), Regan Crosland, Kieran Lee, Danny Kayes, Sam McCahon, Harry Lafituanai, Jason Laurich.
Reserves: Kieran Ramage, Sergio De La Fuente, Keegan Lewis, Ryan Leopold, Cole Berridge, Logan Mitchell, Bobby Motuliki.