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City win Ruatoria derby

(Above : TOP MAN: TVC No.8 Hoani Te Moana, here in East Coast club rugby final action against Uawa in 2019, won praise from his own captain and the injured captain of opponents Tokararangi for his part in a 13-8 victory at Te Araroa Domain. Picture by Paul Rickard)
TVC avenge 2020 club competition final defeat.

Ruatoria City did on Saturday what a crew 12-0 up at halftime and the defending champions of East Coast club rugby couldn’t.

Unlike Tokomaru Bay United at Hatea-a-Rangi and Tokararangi at Te Araroa Domain, City held their ground to win at home — Whakarua Park — in Week 4 of the first-round competition for the Kath McLean Memorial Cup.

City won the Ruatoria derby against Hikurangi 15-7, Uawa came from two tries and a conversion down to beat United 22-17, and Tihirau Victory Club tasted revenge 13-8 in a thrilling replay of the 2020 final.

Hicks Bay (who, like United, have one competition point, but the higher placing on differential) had the bye in Week 4, Week 3 not having gone ahead.

A month into the season, unbeaten TVC have 14 points, Uawa 10, City 9, Tokararangi 6 and Hikurangi 4.

If City, who didn’t field a team last season, beat Hikurangi at Kahuitara in the June 12 rematch, a Round 2 win would see them claim the Tanara “Dunn” Kaiwai Memorial Trophy.

At present held by The Maunga, that trophy (named for the former New Zealand Maori and Wellington hooker, and Ngati Porou East Coast assistant coach) has been contested by the Ruatoria clubs in a best-of-two format annually since Hikurangi first won it in 2010.

City coach Lisa Muller remarked on the physical nature of the derby, feeling between the teams more intense for the movement of players between the clubs. No.8 and 2020 Hikurangi captain Tanetoa Parata, halfback Neihana Ratahi-Brown and second five-eighth Corey Walker all transferred from The Maunga to City this season.

Ruatoria City skipper openside flanker and former Uawa player Jack Richardson spoke with pride of the way in which this team had come together, while acknowledging that they had some work-ons to nail down.

The hosts led 7-0 at the break, courtesy of a try to lively halfback Neihana Ratahi-Brown in the 29th minute, which was converted by lock Nathaniel Fox for 7-0. Fox kicked a penalty goal four minutes before the break to give the home team a 10-0 lead.

A quarter of an hour into the second half, Hikurangi MVP (most valuable player) fetcher Kyil Beach scored a magnificent try, which with first-five Zyon Collins’s conversion drew The Maunga to within striking distance of City.

The Rhys Walker-led Maunga — that powerful No.8 setting a great example in carry and tackle — held their own at scrum and breakdown, although there is room for improvement in terms of timing and accuracy at the lineout.

In the 76th minute, City made the biggest play of the game. Hikurangi set a defensive lineout five metres from the right corner, threw the ball in, but then lost the pill and Tanetoa Parata scored the match-winning try for City.

The energy and output of Parata — City’s MVP — and Walker, for Hikurangi, were outstanding, although both also picked up yellow cards from referee Eruera Kawhia. Muller noted Kawhia’s consistency and calmness in front of some 400 excited fans.

Second win of the season for City

Both teams played willing rugby between the three tries put up. With this result, City have their second win of the season, while a win at home against Kuru Gray’s Tokomaru Bay United on Saturday will give Hikurangi their first taste of victory since the juicy clash (20-17) with Hicks Bay at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti three weeks ago.

Noblesse oblige can mean the high-born providing for those less fortunate or — in a sporting context — reputationed teams acknowledging foes who fought hard in a loss.

In the case of Tokomaru Bay United versus 2018-2019 champions Uawa on Saturday, the underdogs were nearly the biblical David or Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame.

Uawa — the giants in this story — came from 12-0 down at halftime to score 22 points in a row before achieving victory 22-17. Yes, rugby is a team game and maintaining possession over phases requires all concerned to run the well-oiled machine, but halfback Sam Parkes’s hat-trick of tries decided this Week 4 fixture. Parkes scored two second-half tries in Uawa’s 31-13 come-from-behind away win against Hicks Bay. He grows stronger as games go deeper.

In front of nearly 300 fans at Hatea-a-Rangi, the Kuru Gray-coached Tokomaru Bay United drew first blood in the 12th minute with a try to halfback Les Te Reo, which was converted by reserve second-five Beritane Milner.

The 19-year-old Milner replaced first-five Seb Chambers-Raroa (right hamstring) four minutes into the game, starting second-five Shey Tahata moving in one spot.

Milner, grandson of All Black No.683 utility back the late Henare “Buff” Milner, impressed with his footwork and quickness.

In the 22nd minute, big centre Niao Savage scored the home team’s second try for the halftime score of 12-0.

Gray was pleased with the courage and high skill-level shown by his crew.

“We more than held Uawa at scrum-time and our backline, our back-play, was outstanding.”

Uawa No.8 Storm Moran was his side’s MVP, with fullback Uzi Parata picking up that award for Tokomaru Bay United.

Uawa tighthead prop Maia Fox scrummaged well and made his presence felt in general play. He also picked up two yellow cards and was dismissed by referee Troy Para in the second half.

Parkes, who sniped around the fringes to score his first two tries from within five metres of the attacking goal-line on the right side of the park, first imposed himself in the 44th minute. He scored 16m in from the corner. He scored again from a similar position on the ground in the 54th minute. In the 62nd, he held on to a pass from teammate Josh Dearden and ran 50m to score under the crossbar.

With first-five Dearden’s subsequent conversion, Uawa led 17-12.

In the 67th minute fullback BJ Sidney grabbed Uawa’s fourth second-half try for 22-12.

In the 71st minute, United rake Portrait Watene scored the last try of the game.

Uawa spent the last nine minutes of the match defending their goal-line: the home team never relented.

Uawa coach Chris Richardson is as astute and honest a judge of who did what on the field as he was quick between the ears in the backs as a player: “Tokomaru Bay United were very good and didn’t let us settle into a rhythm. We weren’t at our best, but they were good.”

Tihirau Victory Club did something special. They beat defending champions Tokararangi 13-8 to get the monkey off their backs as early as possible.

Beaten finalists in 2020, TVC won at the historic home ground of Tokararangi, Te Araroa Domain.

TVC captain and fetcher Moana Mato, who with the rest of Cape Runaway’s finest beat Hikurangi 24-21 to lift the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield in 2017, was a happy man.

“Tokararangi had some big ball-carriers but our goal-line defence was superb,” Mato said.

“Our lock Dwayne Waititi and first-five Te Manu Herewini both stepped up to make try-saving tackles on their No.8 Willie Bolingford.

“Our No.8 Hoani Te Moana made some big runs with the ball in hand.

“Referee Jackson Reuben-Swinton did a great job with assistant referees Shirley Mato and Melvin Ashford. They controlled the game, the communication was clear — both captains and the 250 good citizens who came to support both teams would have appreciated that too.”

Tokararangi and Ngati Porou East Coast captain Hone Haerewa, who is out injured but was at the game, spoke with feeling of its physicality: “Hoani Te Moana was unreal — he played a huge part in their success. Bodies were flying until the last minute.”

The game, in the words of Radio Ngati Porou’s promising new commentator Brad Turei, saw almost “four seasons in one day” weather-wise, with hail, wind, rain and finally sunshine all in evidence.

TVC, playing into the wind, kicked off and the champions immediately made it clear that they would run hard.

Tokararangi openside flanker Richard Green made the first carry of the game, a 10m surge towards the middle of the park; five minutes later, his teammate, fullback Te Rangi Fraser, fielded the ball in-goal off a missed penalty attempt by TVC and beat five would-be tacklers on a 48m break.

Fourteen minutes into the game, TVC struck. From an attacking lineout, left side, 25m out, TVC controlled the ball over five phases. Their fullback, Verdon Bartlett, gave an assist to Te Moana, who scored the opening try. TVC centre Tutere Waenga converted Te Moana’s try for 7-0.

The visitors took that lead into the break.

Eleven minutes after the resumption, from an attacking scrum set five metres from the TVC goal-line, eight metres off the left touch, Bolingford drove hard. From the ensuing ruck, Tokararangi No.7 Richard Green scored seven metres to the left of goal.

The hosts still trailed 7-5 but they had shown both power and patience in the lead-up to a well-deserved try.

In the 59th minute, from out in front, 18m back, Tokararangi first-five Rapata Haerewa kicked a penalty goal for 8-7. The hosts, under game-day captain lock Dyllyn Evans, then held the whip-hand for the first time in the match.

In the 68th minute, from 21m out, 10m to the right of the posts, Waenga kicked a penalty in response to give TVC a 10-8 advantage. Finally — in the 80th minute, from five metres to the left of goal — TVC reserve left wing Benny Haerewa kicked a 40m penalty to give the visitors a 13-8 win.

Tokararangi skipper Evans, on behalf of the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield holders, said: “TVC are one of the top teams in the competition, and they proved that today. The weather was terrible, but that just makes things more interesting. More to the point, we made mistakes that they were quick to capitalise on. We’ll learn from this and we look forward to playing TVC up there on June 12.”

TVC’s MVP was first-five Te Manu Herewini, while the home team chose as their MVP left wing James Warnock.

Shirley Mato, assistant referee No.1 to Reuben-Swinton in the Tokararangi-TVC clash, said: “I only started my journey as an official last year but I take my job very seriously. Here on the Coast, we have some great refs in the stands but this weekend, all of us in uniform got an amazing reception.

“It starts on the field — with the players going through the right channels when they have questions: through their captain.”