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All set for a thrilling Coast double-header

RUGBY by Ben O’Brien-Leaf

In East Coast rugby’s 100th year, Week 5 features a thrilling double-header.

Te Araroa Domain — stronghold of defending champions the Israel Brown-coached Tokararangi — will be the venue for the hosts’ clash with Ruatoria City at 2.30pm, to be preceded by Hicks Bay v unbeaten competition leaders Tihirau Victory Club at 12.30pm.

Hikurangi will meet Tokomaru Bay United at Kahuitara at 2.30pm, with the Hikurangi and Waiapu ladies’ teams setting the scene at 10am.

Returning from injury for the Round 5 match between the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield holders Tokararangi and City will be the man who led the former to the 2020 title, inspirational Ngati Porou East Coast representative captain openside flanker Hone Haerewa.

“We got two big things out of last Saturday’s match: we want to address our discipline, and be clinical, because our small mistakes let TVC into the game,” said Haerewa. “We want to enjoy the occasion and try to control whatever comes our way tomorrow.”

Dyllyn Evans, who deputised as skipper most capably for Haerewa in the last fortnight, will again join Hori Katipa at lock. Powerhouse No.8 Willie Bolingford was tremendous v TVC: if he plays in that barnstorming fashion tomorrow, City — who won the Ruatoria derby 15-7 v Hikurangi — will need to take their rugby with relish up even another gear, defensively. The performance of their front row (Boss Blackbee, John Brown and scrum-anchor Pera Bishop), too, will be critical.

Hicks Bay are back in the saddle in three weeks after the feisty, meaty clash with Hikurangi at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti. That 20-17 win to Hikurangi was one of the most passionate contests played this season to date; Hicks Bay head coach Aaron King, however, has his people grounded.

“We’re fizzing and we’ll carry on as normal: all of our boys at training last night are excited at the prospect of getting back out on the field,” said King. “We know we’ve got to contain and deny the TVC backline time and space. Hopefully too, the battle of the No.8s — our Anton King, Hoani Te Moana for TVC — will be closely watched because the Coast selectors should look at both of them.

“It’s great too that Whetu Waitoa has joined Hicks Bay from Tokararangi — he’s at second-five. He’s strong, runs hard — our boys will have to keep up with him when he breaks the line.”

Hikurangi will be all business v United.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend, the two teams will have a good opportunity to play some exciting rugby,” said Hikurangi head coach Matt Richards. “No team named yet for us, but players to watch will include young wingers Adrian Rogers (left) and Hone Manuel (right), who are both good to go. Our loose forward trio of Trent Proffit, Kyil Beach and captain No.8 Rhys Walker are tireless workers and willing to put in a big shift.”

United, for their part, are on a high: they played a magnificent first half last week v Uawa. They led 12-0 at the break, but lost 20-17.

Tokomaru Bay United captain loosehead prop Mike Chambers-Raroa wants the full 80-minute effort in Week 5: “A win is on the cards and I’m hoping we progress from the standard we set last Saturday. It’s coming together with this group.”