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ON THE BURST: Ngāti Porou East Coast lock Richard Green busts through the line during their Heartland Championship 34-18 loss to Whanganui. Ngāti Porou are still in the hunt for the Lochore Cup. They play Horowhenua-Kapiti in a semifinal in Levin tomorrow. Picture by Paul Rickard

Coast in it to win it, ‘not make up the numbers’: Parkes

The Coast have a sniff.

Head coach Hosea Gear’s Ngati Porou East Coast Kaupoi will take Sky Blues rugby on the road tomorrow for a chance at Lochore Cup glory.

From 2.30pm, their hosts in 6 v 7 of the Heartland Championship’s Lochore Cup (fifth to eighth) semifinals will be Horowhenua-Kapiti at Levin Domain.

Both sides broke even in round-robin play, with four wins in eight matches.

The ‘Nua opened their campaign on August 20 strongly, coming from 14-13 down at Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park, Ruatoria, to beat NPEC 32-14.

Since that time, assistant coach/forwards coach Morgan Wirepa Jnr, specialist scrum-coach Laman Davies and the Coast pack have worked to improve their scrummaging, a facet of play in which the ‘Nua had the whip-hand nine weeks ago.

Only hooker Joe Royal, Waiapu’s Richie Green and openside flanker Will Bolingford remain of the pack that ran out to face the ‘Nua on opening day, though Royal is now at hooker as opposed to loosehead prop and Green will partner Uawa hulk Khian Westrupp at lock, as opposed to starting at 6.

Westrupp replaced fetcher Bolingford in the 70th minute last Saturday, the latter suffering a broken nose. Bolingford, the Coast’s Most Valuable Player in that game, is, remarkably and admirably, back in harness.

Five of the Horowhenua-Kapiti forwards who started in the game at Ruatoria will run out tomorrow: Scott Cameron, Ryan Shelford, Kale Erickson and Aaron Lahmert will again wear 3, 4, 5 and 7 but Joel Winterburn — the ‘Nua Player of the Year in 2020 and a third-generation Maori representative for the union — has moved from the blindside flank to No.8.

Tighthead prop Cameron made his presence felt at the first engagement last time around and the red, white and blues’ scrum-anchor was their MVP and scorer of a well-deserved second-half try.

Countering strongman Cameron is the task of Ruatoria City’s Hakarangi Tichborne in what will be the 43rd game between the Coast and their hosts.

The ‘Nua hold the balance of power 26 to 16.

The home team will be led by Shelford in his 107th game. He reached his century at Whakarua Park.

There is a great closeness between these teams, a tangible vibe. No one could attest to that with more feeling than Kaupoi left wing Verdon Bartlett, who is set to play his 92nd game in the Coast jersey.

Gear confirmed last night that his boys were keen and excited in anticipation of the biggest game of their season.

His opposite, Chris Wilton, said the Coast represented a big challenge and his union was happy to host them on such a big occasion.

Wilton expects a physical confrontation and knows that, as in all semifinals, defence will be a massive factor. The visitors pose a threat across the park. Both teams will need to make their tackles first-up.

Shelford, a titan of Heartland Rugby, said: “It’s not every year we find ourselves in a home semi. We stood tall last weekend against the Valley away and played for each other there. This now is about battling for the right to enter a final. It’s up to us, as players, to do the job.”

Coast captain and halfback Sam Parkes has proved at every level of rugby that’s he’s up for a challenge – as he did off the bench in the Coast’s Meads Cup triumph a decade ago; as he did on the spur of the moment to kick a match-winning penalty goal in extra time of the 2021 club final against TVC.

With the clock having then expired at Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa, that was a brilliant move in a challenging situation.

Under him the Coast answered a do-or-die call as recently as Round 4 when they beat Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay Weka 12-10 in Gisborne for the Bill Osborne Taonga and which they have defended twice at home.

“We’re in this Lochore Cup semi to win it, not to make up the numbers,” Parkes said.

“Horowhenua-Kapiti have a big pack and dangerous scrum that we need to be good against. We got beaten out wide in the first game this year but I feel we’ve shored both of those things up, and we’ll be better this time around.

“This is all about winning.”

There could be as few as seven points in it tomorrow. The ‘Nua beat the Sky Blues 38-31 on October 2 last season at Levin. Reserve centre Teina Potae bid the hosts a gallant farewell with his try — unconverted — in the 76th minute.

The stage has not yet been bigger for Coast super-boot and first-five Carlos Kemp. The last clash at the Domain was decided by goal-kicking, as Horowhenua-Kapiti halfback Jack Tatu-Robertson went six from six off the tee.

The temperature around the time of kick-off tomorrow is expected to be 15 degrees, with a light easterly breeze in residence.

The referee for the 6 v 7 Lochore Cup semifinal is Hastings-based police constable Stu Catley (30, Hawke’s Bay, 18 first-class games). His assistant referees are Horowhenua-Kapiti men, Oranga Tamariki clinical case leader Randal Peni (49, AR1, reserve referee), who won 10 first-class caps for the ‘Nua — in 2000, he scored two tries for them at centre — and Greg McCardle (40, AR2), a partner at Paraparaumu law firm BMC Lawyers. This is Peni’s sixth year as a premier grade referee and McCardle’s sixth year as a referee per se: tomorrow both will run touch in a Heartland fixture for the fourth time.

Ngati Porou East Coast Kaupoi: Hakarangi Tichborne (14 caps, Ruatoria City), Joe Royal (6, Ponsonby, Counties-Manukau – Loan Player), Perrin Manuel (55, Waiapu), Richie Green (28, Waiapu), Khian Westrupp (8, Uawa), Jorian Tangaere (20, Waiapu), Will Bolingford (18, Waiapu), Morgan Poi (8, Waiapu), Sam Parkes (captain, 61, Uawa), Carlos Kemp (8, Uawa), Verdon Bartlett (91, Tihirau Victory Club), Joe Wadman (7, Northcote, North Harbour – Loan Player), Api Pewhairangi (10, Tokomaru Bay United), Junior Time-Taotua (6, Northern United, Wellington – Loan Player), Tutere Waenga (9, TVC). R: Jody Tuhaka (18, Waiapu), Semisi Akana (9, Uawa), Hoani Te Moana (32, TVC), Rafael Tuhura (2, Hikurangi), Jack Richardson (21, Ruatoria City), Josh Dearden (5, Uawa), Te Manu Herewini (10, TVC), Mohi Bartlett (4, Uawa).

Horowhenua-Kapiti: David McErlean (65, Foxton), John MacNeilage (7, Paraparaumu), Scott Cameron (67, Waikanae), Ryan Shelford (c, 106, Paraparaumu), Kale Erickson (8, Foxton), Jordon Tupai-ui (18, College Old Boys ), Aaron Lahmert (66, Waikanae), Joel Winterburn (37, Rahui), Trent Reti (23, Kia Toa, Manawatu – Player of origin), Kody Edwards (4, Te Kawau, Manawatu – Loan Player), Willie Paia’aua (41, College Old Boys), Tyler Tane (7, Foxton), Darren Falaniko (5, Paraparaumu), Louis Northcott (5, Waikanae), Keaton Kawana (7, Shannon). R: Tyrone Parson (5, Waikanae), Slade Salton (8, Shannon), Sam Gouk (2, Waikanae), Kolonio Koto (9, Waikanae), Sase Va’a (2, Kia Toa, Manawatu – Loan Player), Jack Tatu-Robinson (18, Rahui), Connor Paki (13, Foxton), Te Atawhai Mason (4, Kia Toa, Manawatu – Loan Player).

Round-robin record

Ngati Porou East Coast: August 20, Ruatoria, lost 14-32 v Horowhenua-Kapiti – August 27 Ashburton, beat Mid-Canterbury 36-34 – September 3, Ruatoria, lost 18-34 v Wanganui – September 10, Gisborne, beat Poverty Bay 12-10 – September 17, Ruatoria, beat West Coast 29-27 – September 24, Te Kuiti, lost 21-32 v King Country – October 1, Masterton, beat Wairarapa-Bush 20-16 – October 8, Geraldine, lost 5-57 v South Canterbury.

Horowhenua-Kapiti: Ruatoria, beat NPEC 32-14 – Levin, lost 20-53 v South Canterbury – Masterton, beat Wairarapa-Bush 33-17 – Levin, beat King Country 25-18 – Oamuru, lost 23-89 v North Otago – Levin, lost 13-15 v Mid-Canterbury – Levin, lost 28-49 v Wanganui – Te Aroha, beat Thames Valley 44-43.