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‘Tackled their hearts out’

(Above: ‘AWESOME’: Centre Pamona Samupo, seen here (right) dodging a tackle from Poverty Bay’s Adrian Wyrill, impressed with his carrying in the Hicks Bay v Uawa game at Uawa Domain on Saturday. Hicks Bay won 24-22. File picture)

Hicks Bay coach ecstatic after victory over Uawa

Hicks Bay beat Uawa, and that is a huge result.

In the biggest upset of the 2021 Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby season to date, in Week 2 coach Aaron King’s Hicks Bay seized the day 24-22 at Uawa Domain.

Tokararangi beat Hikurangi 38-16 at home in Week 1 of Round 2 for the Jury Harrison Memorial Cup, the ideal follow-on from their superb 28-10 win at home against Uawa the Saturday before.

Ruatoria City had the bye in Week 1, Kath McLean Memorial Cup first-round winners Cape Runaway’s Tihirau Victory Club beating Tokomaru Bay United by default.

For Hicks Bay, their performance at Uawa Domain was one that should be long-remembered. The sides’ last meeting, on July 20, 2019 in the semi-finals, went the way of 1 v 4 with a 51-3 win to Uawa at home. They had beaten Hicks Bay 24-5 in Round 2 of that season at Tolaga Bay after a 34-36 loss almost too painful to remember, at Kawakawa mai Tawhiti, on April 28 of that year. That had until now been Hicks Bay’s last win against Uawa, home or away.

King was ecstatic with this weekend’s result.

“That win boosted our team — after the game, the boys were happy,” he said. “Our set piece worked from the start, the back-line gelled and in the last 20 minutes, we believed in ourselves, young and old tackled their hearts out and we held things together. Our big runners, No.8 Anton King, loosehead prop Manahi Brooking and centre Pamona Samupo were awesome carrying the ball.”

The away team’s coach saw veteran tighthead prop Chris Haenga make a successful return to rugby in the second half of a make-or-break battle with Uawa’s big blue crew at the scrum: “He made an impact.”

Hicks Bay hearts swelled with pride

Hicks Bay hearts swelled with pride again yesterday with NPEC head coach Hosea Gear naming King, Samupo and Hicks Bay vice-captain openside flanker Frank Taiapa in the Sky Blues’ extended squad to play Poverty Bay on Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

Unlike Hicks Bay, who beat Tokomaru Bay United 50-15 at Hatea-a-rangi the previous Saturday and who have now won two games in a row, Uawa came off a loss heading into the first week of the second round.

Uawa’s Chris Richardson served as their player-coach on Saturday — deputising at halfback — for his game-day captain Sam Parkes, who has done a solid job for the club in the absence through injury (right shoulder) of long-serving skipper Scott Lasenby.

Despite overnight rain, the Domain turf was firm; Hicks Bay captain fullback Shaun Murtagh won the toss, and in 18 degrees the visiting team played into a wispish nor’wester.

Less than a minute into the game, referee Troy Para awarded Uawa the first penalty of the game: in front of and 15m from the visitors’ posts, first-five Josh Dearden drew first blood for 3-0.

In the 19th minute, Uawa struck again near the Hicks Bay goal-line. The dynamic Parkes gathered the ball, swept openside and scored under the crossbar. Dearden converted Parkes’ try for 10-0 to the home team.

Though they showed touches of class, Uawa had found an opponent with muscle to match theirs up front. Uawa are dangerous from sideline to sideline, but Hicks Bay were well-organised and disciplined.

And they were duly rewarded in the 32nd minute. From a set scrum 14m from halfway, Hicks Bay No.8 led the charge. They piled on the pressure over phases, into Uawa’s 22. Finally, given a penalty in the middle of the ground, fetcher Frank Taiapa opted to tap-kick, and go left to Samupo. From Samupo to blindside flanker Brady Heu going the same way, the ball went to first-five Irie Noanoa, who scored in the corner.

Hicks Bay’s patience in the build-up and their ability to retain possession lay at the heart of Noanoa’s memorable try.

Uawa had the upper hand 10-5 at half-time

No conversion was forthcoming and Uawa had the upper hand 10-5 at half-time.

Two minutes after the resumption, Hicks Bay legend Tyrone Delamere joined the fray at blindside flanker and three minutes into the second half, Uawa scored. Awarded a penalty on the visitors’ goal-line, 17m off the left touch, Richardson chose to tap-kick and send the ball to the right. Three phases later, Uawa fullback Tipene Meihana scored the first of his double for 15-5. There was no conversion.

In the 48th minute, Uawa tighthead prop Maia Fox received a yellow card from referee Troy Para.

Hicks Bay scored next, at the 53 minute-mark, following a scrum 23m from Uawa’s goal-line,. Hicks Bay won the scrum, big No.8 King targeting the blindside. Six phases later, Samupo scored on the other side of the ground for Hicks Bay. Noanoa’s conversion made the score 15-12.

Two minutes later, tit-for-tat, Uawa scored in response, Meihana completing his try-double on the right side of the ground. Dearden converted, for 22-12 to Uawa.

In the 58th minute, Fox’s return restored Uawa to their full complement of 15: Hicks Bay were setting a scrum 15m off the left touch, 10m from Uawa’s goal-line at the time. King picked the ball up, went right and launched himself through the home team’s defence at close-quarters, to score.

No conversion followed: Uawa led 22-17.

Para pulled his calf muscle with 17 minutes to play and was replaced by Harawira Matahiki who, assisted by LeRoy Kururangi and Ario Rewi, maintained the officials’ excellent standard.

Hicks Bay were awarded a penalty 71 minutes in, 5m in front of the posts at Uawa’s end. Lock Manahi Brooking tapped, charged straight but could not get across. Hicks Bay went right, hot-stepping right-wing Romeo Newey-Schumann did incredibly well to dance in and away from Uawa personnel until Samupo arrived in support. Samupo broke through and around to score.

Noanoa converted for 24-22 — the final score.

Hicks Bay had held their nerve; 400 fans had been treated to an entertaining, see-saw battle. Hicks Bay and Tokararangi were awarded the maximum five competition points (a win, plus the bonus-point for scoring four tries in the process). TVC were likewise awarded five points.

There’s no bigger scalp in East Coast rugby

There’s no bigger scalp in East Coast rugby.

Only a week after their win at home v Uawa, Tokararangi beat another of the competition’s superpowers — Hikurangi — by 38-16 to begin Round 2. They outscored The Maunga by six tries to one. The level that the Israel Brown-coached Tokararangi trains at — and aspires to play at, consistently — is a big ask to achieve day in, day out, but for the second week in a row, they were in superb form at home.

Yet their captain openside flanker Hone Haerewa knows that his Te Araroa-based posse hasn’t peaked yet.

“Our structure was good in parts but the big thing for us, is be more consistent,” he said.

“Hikurangi definitely turned up to play and their defence caused us to make mistakes.”

Hikurangi coach Matt Richards said his team took many positives from the rugged clash, such as the feeling within his squad that they are playing better rugby game by game.

Their focus is now on defending the Pirika Huriwai-Jones Memorial Trophy against Hicks Bay at Kahuitara in Week 2.

The MVP Awards for both teams were made to hooker Tina Waitoa of Tokararangi and game-day captain blindside flanker Te Naiti Tihema of Hikurangi.

The visitors made the most of their opportunities early in the game: Hikurangi fullback Te Aho Morice potted penalty goals in the seventh minute and 10th minute to give The Maunga a six-nil lead. Twenty-two minutes into the game, Tokararangi second-five James Warnock scored the first try. Warnock’s try not having been converted, Hikurangi then led 6-5. In the 27th minute, Tokararangi halfback Whakarae Henare scored the hosts’ second try, which — with first-five Rapata Haerewa’s conversion — put them further in front, 12-6.

Hikurangi’s Morice kicked his third penalty goal four minutes before the break to keep The Maunga in touch, Tokararangi took a 12-9 lead into half-time

Nine minutes after the resumption, tighthead prop Adrian Collier scored for the home team. Minus the conversion, Tokararangi were 17-9 in front until left-wing Teina Potae cut the visitors’ goal-line in the 54th minute: Haerewa converted Potae’s try for 24-9. In the 61st minute, Tokararangi No.8 Will Bolingford’s try was converted by fullback Te Rangi Fraser for 31-9; their teammate reserve blindside flanker Richard Green’s try (complete with conversion by Fraser after 67 minutes), saw Tokararangi go 38-9 up.

The Maunga had the last word — and a remarkable one. With nine minutes left to play, reserve lock Jodi Walker’s 20m burst through five would-be tacklers to score was great reward for not just himself but the Hikurangi forwards as a unit. Morice (three penalty goals at that stage) converted Walker’s grand effort for Hikurangi 16, Tokararangi 38.

Both sides are renowned for their strong scrummaging, and the simple truth is that although it was again Tokararangi’s day to shine, Hikurangi played good rugby: the visiting team kept their hosts honest and competed hard, though in general Tokararangi had the better field position and the greater share of possession.

Referee Eruera Kawhia did a good job of controlling two passionate teams.

by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published May 20, 2021 2:43PM