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Tokomaru Bay United show spirit

ON THE BREAK: Uawa’s Te Atapo Kirikiri tries to get clear of the Ruatoria City defence.Picture by Tania Hunter
There was only one point in it.

Tokomaru Bay United trailed East Coast club rugby titans Hikurangi 14-13 at halftime, but just couldn’t stay with the away team.

Hikurangi won the closest game of Week 2 in Coast rugby, 41-13 at Wharekahika. In other games, champions Tihirau Victory Club beat a spirited Waiapu 67-7 at Rangitukia, Tokararangi beat Hicks Bay 54-12 and, at Tolaga Bay, Uawa beat Ruatoria City 46-6.

“I was proud of the boys,” said United coach Mike Tiopira, who came on at No.8 for his 220th club cap, replacing lion-hearted Charlie Kepa, who left the field with a broken right arm 15 minutes from time.

“We played to our strengths on the field — such as our rolling maul — but along with that, we’re getting community involvement.

“We had 150 people at the game to support us because they’ve seen us doing things around the place — running for fitness, training hard and being more visible.”

On a firm track, Kepa, veteran tighthead prop Peter Matahiki, lock Te Roha Fairlie and player-of-the-day openside flanker Christian Lawton all featured for Tokomaru Bay up front, with their first five-eighth Joseph Elkington scoring an intercept try.

Fullback Jason Babbington’s boot (one conversion, two penalty goals) sent United to the break fizzing.

For the visitors, openside flanker Tanetoa Parata (2), tighthead prop George Tuala, blindside flanker Trent Proffit, captain and No.8 Rhys Walker, centre Karauria Keelan and right-wing Fabyan Kahaki scored tries, with first-five Aho Matua Morice (two conversions) and fullback David Manuel (one conversion) kicking goals.

Hikurangi hooker Tahu Walker was the recipient of a yellow card, as were United lock Saul Parata (first half) and Fairlie (second half).

United captain loosehead prop Adam Williams was ecstatic about their performance: “We’re a young team, maybe the youngest in the competition, and this weekend was a major learning curve for us, in terms of our discipline. We’re getting better all-round.”

Rhys Walker said: “It’s always good to win the first game — we made errors in the first half, but kept them scoreless from then on. We’ve lost key players from last season and so for us, combinations are important. Those are starting to coming together.”

Both Walker and his coach, old head Doone Harrison, were pleased by the showing of halfback Neihana Ratahi-Brown — Hikurangi’s player of the Day — on debut. Harrison saw good rugby played by both sides.

“Each team was kept honest by the other’s defence, though things opened up in the second half,” he said.

“Adam (Williams) was solid for them and Joe Elkington is a good player, too, with his awareness and speed. As to our own game, this week we’ll work to reduce our penalty count at the ruck — that’s big for us.”

Tihirau Victory Club defeat Waiapu 67-7
Some things never change. Die-hard supporters of clubs on the Coast are famous for their passion — and that galvanises players.

“Our fans are massive for us,” said Waiapu captain and loosehead prop Frank Manuel, who came off the bench for Hoto Te Whitu (bruised right shoulder) 20 minutes into the first half against Tihirau Victory Club.

“Hearing familiar voices screaming out just gives the boys a little bit extra.

“Everyone who wears that orange jersey, bleeds for it. It’s not easy having big scores put up on us but when we’re able to recycle ball and string phases together, we go forward. TVC played the game at pace.”

Manuel won Poverty Bay’s Lee Bros Shield with YMP in 2010, and is greatly respected in rugby circles. His calming influence and leadership by example is a major plus for Waiapu.

TVC, led by loosehead prop Rika Mato, were 29-0 up at the break, but — as he did against Uawa in Tolaga Bay last week — Grayson Mauheni stole a second-half try for Waiapu, having started the game at hooker yet playing at centre when he scored. First-five Slade Tiopira converted Mauheni’s try.

No.8 Solomon Vaka (2), locks Hoani Te Moana and Moana Kurei, openside flanker Manaia Nyman, first-five Rapata Haerewa, left-wing John Dinsdale, right-wing Whetu Tukaki, reserves left-wing-cum-centre Kupu Holloway, blindside flanker Ben Houia and left-wing Avamarino Pokoati scored tries, with TVC player of the day Rapata Haerewa (five conversions) and player-coach and hooker Whetu Haerewa (one conversion) kicking goals.

“Rapata was creative and inventive and it helps that we have a strong core of players able to attend training twice a week,” said Whetu Haerewa.

“And the likes of Manaia and Charles (Ngamoki, blindside flanker) are training six days a week on fitness and conditioning outside of that.”

Waiapu coach Kahu Waitoa was fiercely proud of his hard-working team.

“We simply ran out of gas in the last 20 minutes,” he said.

“To compete for 80, we need to get fitter. Even though the score was higher today, we were much better here than we were against Uawa. Our flankers Rowan Haenga (blindside) and Rory Waitoa (openside), and centre Lydon Green all made try-saving tackles. The boys played their hearts out.”

Uawa beat Ruatoria City 46-6
Uawa at home was never going to be easy. And they weren’t. Tip Nukunuku’s blue heavyweights beat Ruatoria City 46-6 but — incredibly — the Tim Barbarich-led City held the competition’s biggest outfit to 17-6 at halftime.

“We’ve lost 13 players from last year but had 22 today,” City coach Lisa Muller said.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more. They looked like a team, they played as a team.”

Uawa coach Nukunuku was likewise impressed by the visitors’ committed match effort: “We were rapt that City turned up with a solid team and played well — hats off to them.

“For us, Tipene Meihana at first-five was brilliant again and our player of the day. Our midfield, with Rikki Crawford and Jesse Rye, was solid, props Laman Davies and Paranihi Houia carried the ball well, and our back row of Hayden Pardoe, Rikki Kernohan and Kerehama Blackman were relentless.”

Muller’s player-of-the-day award went to City as a whole, with first-five Nathaniel Fox kicking two penalties. The involvement of Fox and Uawa’s Houia was total: both received yellow cards.

Uawa’s try-scorers were Davies (2), Houia, halfback Jesse Saywell, Meihana, Rye, reserve prop-hooker Puri Hauiti and replacement fullback BJ Sidney, with Saywell landing three conversions.

Eigxhteen-year-old, 6ft 5in, 121-kilogram lock Tony Walker — younger brother of former Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 captain Isaia Walker-Leawere and former Fiji captain Kele Leawere — came off the bench in the first half and made waves.

“He carried the ball well,” Uawa captain and lock Scott Lasenby said.

“City were very physical across the board but we stuck to our game-plan, and dominated in the scrums and line-outs. Their halfback, CJ Fox-Campbell, had a great game — as did Tip for us. He played with flair and confidence.”

Tokararangi beats Hicks Bay 54-12
Te Aho Haenga: remember that name. The Tokararangi left-wing was in sensational form on Saturday at Wharekahika. His magnificent four-try effort headlined the visitors’ 54-12 win against Hicks Bay, with the Morgan Wirepa junior-coached side now holders of both the Jim Reedy and Harold Puha memorial trophies.

First-five Pamona Samupo (2), centre Phoenix Brown (2), right-wing Te Whetu Waitoa and Brown’s replacement, Erutini Paringatai-Walker, also scored tries for Tokararangi. Samupo kicked two conversions.

Trailing 20-0 at halftime, the home might have wilted, but they didn’t. Player-coach Warren Henderson’s crew showed plenty of courage in a willing encounter. At one stage, Tokararangi had three players in the sinbin — second-five Te Kooti Kingi, No.8 Anton King and reserve Taylor Hovell. Hicks Bay captain centre Sean Murtagh also ended the first half in the bin. He later made amends with a sensational second-half try.

But 10 minutes after the break, it was reserve centre Blue Walker who drew first blood for Hicks Bay. Six metres out from Tokararangi’s goal-line, 15m off the right sideline, burly prop Aaron King heaved three metres forward, lock Richard King drove another metre and finally Hicks Bay player of the day openside flanker Tim Wheeler surged a precious half-metre to put Walker within striking distance. Walker scored for 5-25.

Shortly after that, Murtagh scored. Hicks Bay set a midfield scrum at halfway, won the ball and went right. Halfback Kau Akita passed to first-five Tyrone Delamere, he passed to second-five Tamati Delamere, who beat would-be tacklers and put in a chip-kick. Murtagh on the chase chipped again, and dived on the ball in-goal. He converted his own try.

Both captains acknowledged the value of the experienced players in their ranks. For Murtagh, Tyrone Delamere loomed large. For Tokararangi halfback and first-year skipper Israel Brown, who scored two tries on debut as a 16-year-old under legendary strongman Willie Waitoa in 2008, his club’s future, in the shape of Haenga and others, is bright.

Referee Troy Para earned praise from Tokararangi manager Deina Wirepa: “He was consistent in his decision-making and enforced the compulsory mouthguard rule. He kept the players safe.”

by Ben O’Brien-Leaf http://gisborneherald.co.nz

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