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Visitors rule

Honours to away teams in opening round of Coast club rugby

All three visiting teams won away to kick off the Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby season.

The Enterprise Cars-sponsored competition opened with a 26-10 win to defending champions Tokararangi over Hikurangi at Kahuitara, last year’s beaten finalists Tihirau Victory Club out-running Tokomaru Bay United 81-0 at Hatea-a-rangi and Uawa coming from behind against Hicks Bay to prevail 31-13 at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti.

Ruatoria City had a bye in the first of 16 rounds.

Hicks Bay began their campaign with a lively but unsuccessful showing at home.

Uawa won 31-13 in ideal conditions for fast, open rugby.

All of the grounds on the Coast are in superb nick and Hicks Bay, who had a slight northwesterly at their backs, made a dream start against powerful opposition.

Blindside flanker Kaumoana Te Awhitu scored the opening try, converted by first-five Irie Noa Noa in the 11th minute.

Seven minutes later, Noa Noa potted a penalty goal to give the hosts another confidence boost.

Uawa struck back in the 23rd minute, with an unconverted try to left-wing Te Ahimanawa Westrupp, but Noa Noa kicked his second penalty in the 31st minute to put the home side 13-5 ahead.

Uawa first-five Josh Dearden responded with a 35th-minute penalty kick and on the cusp of halftime halfback Sam Parkes went over to level it 13-all.

Dearden’s successful conversion gave them a 15-13 lead at the break.

Nine minutes after the resumption, Dearden kicked another penalty (18-13) and in the 52nd minute, on debut, right-wing Caleb Billington scored his first try in senior club rugby to make it 23-13.

With 12 minutes left, Dearden landed a third penalty for 26-13 and on fulltime, Parkes — who had moved to second-five — completed a try-scoring double.

Hicks Bay earned the respect of Uawa captain lock Scott Lasenby and his big blue crew.

“Hicks Bay ran the ball strongly, their defence was strong, too, but we scored some good tries off simple plays,” said Lasenby.

“The boys are in good spirits and we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.

“Our referee today, Jackson Reuben-Swinton, had an awesome game as well.”

Uawa coach Chris Richardson was pleased with the way all of his players contributed.

Their Most Valuable Player was lock-cum-blindside flanker Willie Donald, who impressed with his high work-rate, while Hicks Bay’s MVP went to loosehead prop Manahi Brooking.

A convert from first-five, Brooking played 80 great minutes, as did

18-year-old Billington for Uawa.

Despite the first-up loss, Hicks Bay captain and centre Shaun Murtagh and coach Aaron King had every reason to be positive.

“I thought we played out of our skins.” said King, who noted their fitness was far better than the early stages of last season.

“We played well in the first half. At the lineout, lock Weihana Delamere and fetcher Brady Heu both had great games.

“Anton King led from No.8 and our defensive patterns held.

“Sam Parkes just went to another level in that second half.”

Rampant start by Tihirau Victory Club

Tihirau Victory Club did not hit the ground just running, they were sprinting.

The 2017 champions swamped hosts Tokomaru Bay United 81-0 after leading 38-0 at half-time.

They scored six and seven tries either side of the break.

Second-five Tawhao Stewart scored four times, left-wing Taleq Simeon got a hat-trick, there were doubles to MVP fullback Anaru Waiariki and No.8 Hoani Te Moana, and a try each to right-wing Ron-Paul McRoberts and captain openside flanker Mo Mato.

First-five Tutere Waenga kicked seven conversions and Simeon landed one conversion.

Waenga converted the first four tries — the first, by Simeon, then two by Stewart, and the first of Waiariki’s tries.

“I was pleased the boys stuck to our game plan because that included maintaining structure,” said Mato.

He was impressed with the performance 17-year-old Waiariki.

“We had only one reserve player but got two yellow cards, so despite the score it was competitive stuff.

“Credit to Tokomaru Bay. They played 80 minutes of gutsy rugby.”

Tokomaru Bay United’s MVP was hard-hitting openside flanker Gilman Papuni while their best back was skilful second-five Les Te Reo.