Clubs rally round captains
YMP versus Pirates has all the makings of a classic.
Both clubs have rallied around their captains — hooker Shayde Skudder for YMP and No.8 Willie Bolingford for Pirates — and made a superb fist of this shortened season with great dedication to training, team spirit, week-by-week improvement and now, a month since Civil Project Solutions Premier Rugby kicked off, wins under their belts. YMP and Pirates have something to show for their effort.
Kevin Hollis Glass Pirates claimed a huge scalp in the 34-26 victory over standing champions OBM last week. With the win came the Keith Webber Shield, named for the greatly respected Kaiti School principal, Pirates and Poverty Bay player, life member and patron — a man whose life of selfless integrity was spent in service to his community.
YMP also have good reason to hit tomorrow’s game at full tilt.
In beating OBM 28-12 a fortnight ago, they proved that hard work pays off. The 29-7 victory over High School Old Boys last Saturday proved that their first win was no fluke. The evidence is to be seen in their fitness, that energy enabling them to close out games against opponents whose hope was that YMP would fade in the last 20 minutes of play.
And nothing would make YMP coach Brian Leach happier than disciplined, accurate execution from start to finish.
“We’re gelling together nicely,” he said.
“Last weekend — for the first time this season — our wingers saw the ball, and our backs scored all the tries.
“We’ll only get better from here. Confidence is high, and now I want our forwards and backs to share the workload.”
The Skudder-led YMP have received one piece of good news and await even bigger news. The good news already received is that blindside flanker Shyann Wyllie, who was dismissed in the 77th minute last weekend, had his appeal upheld and so is eligible to play tomorrow.
The even bigger news is that former HSOB and Poverty Bay fullback Andrew Tauatevalu has returned to Gisborne, and been released by his Hawke’s Bay club Maori Agricultural College. Tauatevalu will play for YMP tomorrow.
“We’ve been working hard but we’ve yet to execute our game-plan perfectly,” Skudder said.
“Pirates play with passion — we’re ready for that — and are strong at the scrum. We want good set-piece ball, too, for our backs to work their magic.”
Jesse Kapene and Niko Lauti — the YMP openside flanker and No.8 respectively from Week 3 — swap places for tomorrow’s game.
Pirates have moved senior pro Eru Wharerau from lock to openside flanker, recognising that there is no substitute for the ability to read play, run the right lines in support of the ball-carrier and get to the breakdown first. The Bolingford-Jacob Leaf combination that set up fullback Eferemo Davobalavu for the opening try against OBM in the first minute of play has been retained by head coach Willie Waitoa.
With Pirates having 22 players, Waitoa has the luxury of not needing to start or even name himself in the reserves.
Waitoa believes that, even in a short season, a game-by-game approach is best.
Bolingford, like Skudder, is buoyant.
“Coming off a win, we’re excited and just want to keep that intensity, be ready for what traditionally is a physical game,” he said.
“I want us to go hard but also keep our structures for the full 80 minutes . . . play our style of rugby with passion and flair.”
Scott McKinley is a fighter and tomorrow there would be nothing wrong were he to wear his heart on his sleeve.
In the past fortnight, from fullback, McKinley has deputised for OBM lock Jacob Cook in the role of captain and he will again lead the side against Ngatapa at the Oval.
He debuted at first five-eighth under head coach Stu Blair and then-backs-coach Trevor Crosby as an 18-year-old in 2012. Crosby is now in his second stint as head coach. He and McKinley both know that something has to give tomorrow.
“I’m looking at key players — Scotty, Michael Fox (first-five) and Braedyn Grant (fullback) to shine in the backs,” Crosby said.
“In the forwards, we’re looking for another big game from Rikki Terekia (hooker), Nicolas Carrizo (No.8) and Juston Allen (blindside flanker).
“We need to be competitive at set-piece and from there, show our skills. Ngatapa have been going well and are dangerous.
“We have to battle for every inch.”
Terekia scored a hat-trick in the 34-26 loss to Pirates, a game during which he played blindside flanker, No.8 and hooker. Tomorrow will mark the first time this season that he is to be the starting rake. He has been superb, as has been Carrizo.
One of the competition’s premier lineout forwards, Carrizo has done the job for Enterprise Cars OBM that Ngatapa have needed done, and need done again in Week 4.
Larsawn Ngatapa head coach Steve Hickey is pleased with his side’s build-up to the clash with OBM.
“We had a good turnout last night,” he said.
“We trained well with plenty of energy. I just want our boys to concentrate on doing the basics well and executing their individual skills, because OBM have a big forward pack, and they dealt to us twice last year.”
With captain Jason Jones, Ngatapa’s starting hooker last Saturday, out with an injury (right knee), Ihaia Kerr returns to his Week 1 spot as rake. On debut for Ngatapa will be 22-year-old Alex Bristow, on the left wing. The captaincy will be shared by experienced Poverty Bay loosehead prop Campbell Chrisp — who played his 100th game for Ngatapa in 2018 — and clever halfback Willie Short.
Chrisp won the Tiny White Opening Day medal at Tapuae in 2018, and Ngatapa need his famous forward “shunt” tomorrow.
Against Waikohu, Jones (before his injury), Chrisp and last week’s front-row debutant Antonio Walker-Leawere all made hard yards up what used to be referred to as “The Fat Man’s Track”, also known as “the most direct approach”.
Big OBM blindside flanker Juston Allen, too, is known as a strong carrier of the ball, and one — like game-day vice-captain Terekia — with the ability to slip his fellow forwards a magic pass, the kind of pass that leads to tries being scored.
No team can easily replace big second-rowers like Jacob Cook or a backline general such as second-five Jake Holmes. Ngatapa were last Saturday displaced as the competition’s No.2 team by YMP but had won their first two games before that.
OBM are sixth on the table and a win at home would greatly boost their confidence. Three losses to start the season is tough, and at such times leaders emerge. In Cook’s absence, Scott McKinley is the man OBM will look to at the Oval in Week 4.
McKinley said: “We fought back last week — we’re keen — but the backs haven’t fired a shot yet.
“We will tomorrow, though — hard and direct.”