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Line-up changes present strong front

RUGBY

RYAN Tapsell’s crew have had two weeks to tighten up.

And a fortnight since their 40-10 loss to Palmerston North Boys’ High School at the Rectory here in the Super 8 rugby tournament opener, head coach Tapsell has made changes to the Gisborne BHS first 15 team that could tip the balance tomorrow.

King Maxwell has been moved from fullback to first-five eighth, and Carlos Hihi has shifted from first-five to fullback. Tapsell’s reasoning is that the in-form Maxwell would benefit from handling the ball more often and that given more time and space, the talented Hihi could produce a big game.

These could be inspired changes. Maxwell’s sleight of hand and clever kicking game, allied to his vision and generalship, have at different times had good opposition scrambling, both here and out of town. Hihi showed touches of class in the loss to PNBHS, but the visitors’ quickness and elusiveness was stunning on the day.

In other changes to the starting line-up against Palmerston North, Matiu Anderson has replaced third-year man Tyla Keelan-Phillips as vice-captain Max Briant’s locking partner, Siope Fakahokotau has switched to the right-wing to accommodate Izaiah Fox, Josh Whyte is at second-five eighth for Puna Hihi.

GBHS captain tighthead prop Nathaniel Hauiti said: “The boys and I are pretty keen to get out there. We want to give the locals a good game to watch.”

For the home team, it is vital that they chase every kick put in by Maxwell and Hihi. It was the space PNBHS’ backs had to work with on May 29 that gave their brisk counterattack its steel edge.

Napier BHS under their head coach Brendon Ratcliffe are their normal well-grounded, solid selves, ready and able to play good hard, quality rugby for teammates.

NBHS in the last while has played very well against Gisborne, who last hosted their oldest traditional opponents on June 8, 2019. Napier won 22-19, and left-wing Wesley Akeripa scored the match-winning try four minutes from time to retain the Football Challenge Cup.

Gisborne last beat NBHS here in 2015, 37-12, under captain lock — and now Hurricane — the 6’6” Isaiah Walker-Leawere, whose first 15 later beat the old foe 28-20 in a “friendly” at Napier. A year later, NBHS at home beat GBHS 22-21 and have held the Football Challenge Cup since.

Napier have this season beaten Wellington College 26-7, Mount Albert Grammar School 32-10 and Scots College 30-15. Tomorrow they will be led by No.8 Gilgal Leutele-Malasia, their second 15 by lock Jacob Robinson. GBHS second 15 captain second-five Xavier Henare-Brown’s team played great rugby in their recent 42-0 win v Dannevirke HS here, and the skipper is keen to see more of the same tomorrow.

Henare-Brown said: “We’ve faced Napier once already in the pre-season. We’ve developed since then, the boys and I are keen, and we have a chance if things go as planned.”

GBHS first 15: Zeke Collier, Matariki Kaa, Nathaniel Hauiti (c), Matiu Anderson, Max Briant (v), Dylan Bronlund, Ben Phelps, Nik Patumaka, Kyran Russell, King Maxwell, Izaiah Fox, Josh Whyte, Uetaha Wanoa, Siope Fakahokotau, Carlos Hihi. R: Reweti Ropiha, Charlie Mathias, Paraina Davies, Karlos Howe, Puna Hihi, Hikurangi Reid, Hayze Nepia.

NBHS first 15: Jared Martin, Tyrone Chrystal, Gus Brown, Guy von Dadelszen, Will Rickey, Lochi Mead, Max Ratcliffe (v), Gilgal Leutele-Malasia (c), Joel Russell, Lawson Gillies, Kaitiaki Broughton, Bethel Leutele Malasia (v), Korie Paio, Adam Curran, Sam Kanthavong. R: Tuli Faleiva, Tasman Soanai, Nicholas Ennor, George Manson, Jovian Cleal, Tim Slabbekoorn, Dougal Kerr.

GBHS second 15: Hayze Nepia, Paul Tovio, Lathaneal Niwa-Karakia, Joe Kemp, Latrell Walker, Kerry Hohepa, Braith Ingram, Reuben Whatiri, Kauri Christie, Te-Reimana Gray, Lachie Falloon, Xavier Henare-Brown (c), Xavier Tuapawa, Dante Kirkpatrick, Silas Brown. R: Jimmy Moore, Ratu Nairoroi, Daniel Tamanui, Noah Torrance-Cribb, Kaia Gate, Kaioio Tangira, Jayrieon Te Ahu, Cohen Loffler.

NBHS second 15: Cameron Dawson, Tom Hollier, Kyan Ward, Max Pirie, Jacob Robinson (c), Kade Barham, Charlie Free, Levi Robinson, Cory Berkett, William Malaitai (v), Syd Drinkrow, Will Rawcliffe, Calvin O’Rourke, Tenzing Tautari, Max Free. R: Juan Ross, Rangitane Tawhai, Sam Peacock, Matt Vaimoli, Telea Faumui, Jahdyn Moulder, Mark Vaimoli.