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Club Report – July 4th

It was a perfect Saturday setting for The National Game.

Three of the competition’s big guns fired in Week 1 of the Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby season.

Defending champions Uawa beat Tokomaru Bay United 56-0, last season’s beaten finalists Tihirau Victory Club beat newly reinstated Waiapu 73-0 and Tokararangi beat Hicks Bay 45-5.

Overall, Uawa head coach Laman Davies was pleased.

“It was good,” he said.

“United were everything we expected them to be — disruptive at times — but once we managed to string a few phases together, we got the end result.”

On debut and locking for Uawa, big Paddy Allen scored the first try — and points — of their season, after 20 minutes. First five-eighth Josh Dearden converted the Allen try for 7-0.

In the 25th minute, left wing Puhi Tau scored the second try for Uawa. Dearden was unable to convert his fellow debutant Tau’s try, but did the honours for centre Jordan Birch at the half-hour mark . . . the score was 19-0.

Tries to Uawa captain and fullback BJ Sidney (33rd minute) and Birch (39th minute) made the halftime score 29-0.

Tokomaru Bay United head coach Kuru Gray had known it would be a tough game.

“Their scrum and lineout were very good, so it was hard work in the first half,” he said.

“A high point for us was veteran first-five Jason Babbington coming on in the 69th minute. With his first touch of the ball, he ran 60 metres and with his second touch, he somehow got our left wing Hori Dean a magic pass that almost put him away in the corner.

“I’ll say this: our boys never stopped trying.”

Ten minutes into the second half, Dearden scored the first try of his double, Birch completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute and Dearden scored his second try for the day . . . 44-0.

The last two try-scorers for Uawa were reserves — big lock Kerehama Blackman (70th minute) and right wing Tee Paenga (75th minute), with Paenga’s try being converted by tighthead prop Daniel Knubley, for 56-0.

You could say they stretched their legs.

Tihirau Victory Club made a powerful start to the season, beating Waiapu 73-0.

Waiapu had worked hard in the lead-up to the first week of competition play, but not for nothing were TVC the team to push Uawa to the brink in last year’s final. On their day, Cape Runaway’s finest are irresistible — and Waiapu player-coach halfback Hamuera Baker understands that.

“It was a tough game first-up, but I’m proud of our boys for fronting and giving it hell to the last whistle,” he said.

The TVC try-scorers were their player of the day, left wing William Ford, who bagged a hat-trick. Tighthead prop Hirini Delamere, No.8 Hoani Te Moana, centre Tutere Waenga and right wing Tariq Simeon all grabbed doubles. Openside flanker Manaia Nyman and reserve right wing Tom Rogers grabbed a try each. Simeon and halfback Keegan Rowley kicked two conversions each.

The halftime score was 24-0 to home team TVC at Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa, but Waiapu put in a strong first-half effort which, but for the odd dropped ball might have had TVC up by a mere four points at 24-20.

Key to the Waiapu forward effort were loosehead prop Tripoli Poi, tighthead prop Pakanga Te Whitu, hooker Grayson Mauheni, lock Ngatama Green, blindside flanker Rory Waitoa and their player of the day, No.8 Gabe Te Kani. A measure of the influence the Waiapu pack had on the game is that TVC — an outfit renowned for their efficiency, accuracy at set-piece and businesslike approach — had to work hard to make inroads. They scored first after 15 minutes.

The long delay to the start of the season is of little account now to TVC and their player-coach and second-five Moana Mato.

“All our training paid off,” he said.

“We stuck to our structure, our set-piece was good and everything flowed on from that. It was a fast game and a perfect day for rugby.”

Mato paid tribute to two players in particular — TVC’s Nyman, who has been out of rugby for two years because of an injury to his right knee, and Waiapu front-rower Poi.

Poi, a former captain of Waiapu, is a club patriot. He is the best sort of opponent — one to test the other side’s wits and patience for 80 minutes, before becoming a comrad-in-arms.

And Waiapu — as in the likes of Tari Ao Tuhura-Stevenson at centre — have skilful young players with flair and potential. The keenness with which youngsters such as TVC’s 16-year-old reserve halfback Anaru Waiariki attacked their rugby in Week 1 was an outstanding feature of the day.

Both sides were grateful to referee Eruera Kawhia, with assistants Shirley Mullany and Ario Rewi, for — as Mato said — their “teamwork and communication as officials”. One observer was moved to comment on not just the quality of the officiating, but its scrupulous impartiality.

Nothing in life is free.

And Tokararangi worked hard in the lead-up to Week 1. Their effort paid off with a 45-5 win at Te Araroa Domain against Hicks Bay.

In fairness to Hicks Bay, Tokararangi at home to open the season is a tough assignment. The visitors’ head coach, Aaron King, has reason to be proud of his team.

“We played well in the first half — tackling and running hard, and executing the pick-and-go,” he said.

“It was a good effort first-up. Anton (King) injured his right shoulder, and didn’t start the second half. We just want to be a tiny bit fitter, get to the breakdown.”

King complimented Tokararangi on their speedy, quality work at the breakdown while at the same time acknowledging the great effort of his blindside flanker Weihana Delamere, fetcher Manahi Brooking and No.8 King.

On a sunny day with the crowd numbering perhaps 300, the home team scored first through No.8 Sonny Campbell in the fourth minute. In the 23rd minute, from a scrum set eight metres from the Tokararangi goal-line, a metre to the right of the posts, No.8 King came hard off the back to score.

Tokararangi led 7-5 at the break.

After halftime, the home team rolled their sleeves up. Tokararangi fullback Pamona Samupo scored two tries, one after the other. Centre Whetu Waitoa and blindside flanker Alec Bristowe then scored one each, with Samupo completing his hat-trick to finish.

Samupo and co-captain, openside flanker Hone Haerewa, both kicked a conversion. Lock Rapata Haerewa kicked four conversions and a penalty goal.

Seventeen-year-old reserve lock Kyah Hollis was named player of the day for his strong all-round match-effort and work at the lineout. For Hicks Bay, that honour went to right wing Tu Ngata, on his 21st birthday.

“Hicks Bay’s scrum is always hard to compete with, but we held our own,” Tokararangi head coach Israel Brown said.

“I would just like for our boys to have slowed things down a little bit at times, just to play our own game.

“We’ll work on that.”