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Bay face uphill fight against frontrunners

LEADERBRAND Poverty Bay will be putting their heads on the chopping block tomorrow when they are away to Wanganui in a third-round Heartland Championship rugby game.

The Butcher Boys have won all 12 Heartland games against the Bay since the competition started in 2006. The Bay have conceded an average of 43 points a game.

Bay coach Mana Otai’s men are bottom of the 12-team competition and are without one of their most consistent players, No.8 Siosiua Moala, who has a neck injury.

“It’s a case of player welfare coming before a game of football,” said Otai, who has “shuffled” his team around after last week’s loss to Horowhenua Kapiti.

Captain and openside flanker James Grogan replaces Moala.

Everard Reid, who made a big difference when he came off the bench, starts at lock, with Jacob Cook benched.

“Everard’s been working his way back to match fitness. Having him start this week is a bonus.

“He’s a valuable addition to the pack and will give us additional punch.

“It’s a bit unlucky for Jacob, who has been playing well, but sometimes it’s a matter of horses for courses. Jacob is one of the unsung heroes in the squad. He’s got a great work ethic.”

In the backs, another second-half replacement last week, Kelvin Smith, starts at first five-eighth ahead of Jake Holmes.

George Halley comes in for his first Heartland game this season in place of winger Ratu Daurua, whose father passed away.

Wanganui were made to work hard for a 21-19 win against Thames Valley last week. This could give the Bay a glimmer of hope.

“With the record they have in the competition, you have to give them respect,” Otai said.

“But it’s another week, another game, another opportunity for us to show we’re improving.”

POVERTY BAY (1-22): Tamanui Hill, Matekairoa McGuire, Sione Ngatu, Leslie Hills, Everard Reid, Willis Tamatea,Fawn White, James Grogan, Willy Grogan, Kelvin Smith, George Halley, Isaia Vuki, Jesse Fleming, Karl Macpherson, Ethine Reeves. Reserves: Sandy Hohipa-Campbell, Semsi Akana, Jacob Cook, Mekepio Brown, Mario Counsell, Tawhao Stewart, Anthony Karauria.

LEADERS OF THE PACK: Last season’s Poverty Bay skipper, Everard Reid, leads the charge against Horowhenua Kapiti last week, with support from this year’s captain, James Grogan, and Sione Ngatu, who will play his 147th game for the Bay against Wanganui tomorrow. All three will be expected to lead from the front. Picture by Paul Rickard