Mustangs impress on return to competition
MANUTUKE Mustangs may be in their first rugby league season in years but they’ve made an impressive return, reaching the playoffs.
The Mustangs — back this season after a break of about 10 years — will take on a red-hot Paikea Whalers outfit on Saturday.
The winners will go through to the Gisborne Tairawhiti club competition final and the losers will have another life but will have to defeat the winners of the sudden-death game between the third- and fourth-ranked teams to get to the big dance.
That will be no easy task, because those teams — Waengapu Stallions and Central Falcons — are contenders for the title themselves.
The Whalers, last year’s champions, dealt to Central Falcons last Saturday, however, winning 60-22.
Manutuke Mustangs, who have several YMP rugby players in their line-up, beat the Stallions 34-26.
The game between the Mustangs and Stallions was dedicated to Steven Maynard, a former Stallions player who died last week.
Mustangs captain Shayde Skudder said Maynard was “a close brother of both teams”.
Skudder said it was a tough game and an emotional day.
“Our boys just ran and tackled their hearts out,” he said.
They lost two players to the sin-bin at one point and were still able to hold out, which Skudder said showed how much they wanted to win.
Jesse Kapene, Shyann Wyllie, Mike Saddlier and Leroy Taiapa were solid, and Te Peehi Fairlie chimed in at fullback.
Austin Brown had a good day with the boot and directed play well, Skudder said.
The Whalers would be formidable opposition this week but the Mustangs would be “all good, if we play how we have been”.
Stallions player-coach Jay Casey was happy with the Stallions’ performance last Saturday and said the Mustangs put in a strong showing.
He thought the Stallions’ standout players were Charlie Kepa, Henry Kepa and Steiney Riwai.
The Paikea Whalers sent out a warning shot to all the other sides in the hunt for the title — they had four tries on the board before the Central Falcons scored.
Their attack was strong, with Stuart Leach setting up tries and scoring two himself.
The Whalers were up 22-6 at halftime.
Leach, Mita Hemo and Tharin Cox-Peratiaki each grabbed two tries.
The Falcons had some good hit-ups from Turupa Green and Tulsa Kaui.
Their try-scorers were Ra Green, Tawhai Tanirau, Nesta Turnbull and Tipi Jones.
Marquand Samuels converted three out of four tries.
The two playoff games on Saturday are at Awapuni Stadium at 1pm and 2.30pm — with Whalers against Mustangs being the first of those fixtures.
The other scheduled match is the playoff for fifth and sixth, between the Turanga Panthers and Ngatapa Stags, at 11.30am.