First blood, Coast
October 30 is going to a be a rugby day like no other.
That is the date on which the Ngati Porou East Coast women will come to Gisborne in search of their third straight win.
Standing in their way will be the Ron Tamatea-coached Poverty Bay team.
The Whetu Haerewa-coached Coast women have made a fortress of the mighty Hikurangi club’s stronghold of Kahuitara in the last fortnight.
The Coast beat Eastern Bay of Plenty 26-20 two weeks ago and on Saturday they scored five tries in a 31-12 win against Poverty Bay.
Their men’s team made it a Coast double down the road at Ruatoria’s Whakarua Park by beating Buller 50-26 in their Heartland championship Week 5 clash.
NPEC women’s team game-day captain and loosehead prop Zoey Henderson — deputising for regular skipper Shirley Mullany-Mato — said an improvement in their kicking game, mainly through flanker Kyrah Dewes (blindside flanker), helped lay the platform.
“It provided us with an opportunity to create some defensive pressure as well as gain good field position from which to attack.”
On a gorgeous day, the fixture drew 300 fans to what proved a thrilling game played at pace under local referee Eruera Kawhia.
Poverty Bay first five-eighth Maia Rickard, later named their Most Valuable Player, opened the scoring with a try in the eighth minute, converted by hooker Jordyn Tihore.
In the 12th minute, Henderson got the hosts’ first try and Dewes’ successful conversion levelled the score.
Bay fullback Nikita Wharehinga put the visitors 12-7 ahead with a try in the 15th minute only for NPEC openside flanker Ario Rewi to tie it up again with a try four minutes later.
The score remained 12-all to halftime.
After the resumption, first-five Nikau Teddy put the home side ahead for the first time with a try in the 55th minute and Dewes added the conversion.
Reserve halfback Pounamu Wharehinga scored the Coast’s fourth try in the 65 minutes and hooker Maraea Green kicked the conversion to put them 26-12 in front.
NPEC lock and Most Valuable Player on the day Kimi Parata scored the last try of the match in the 77th minute.
With this victory the Coast became the inaugural winners of the Rerepuhitai Trophy.
“It was a game of two halves for us,” coach Haerewa said. “The first was excitement and nerves, the second we settled nicely into our work.”
Bay coach Tamatea felt his side played well “but there’s room for improvement”.
“Half of our team had never played rugby before so this was their introduction to the game.”