Victory over the Bay and centenary celebrated
A major motion picture could be made of it.
Ngati Porou East Coast beat Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay 28-21 to ice the sky-blue-and-white centenary cake by breaking their five-year duck against their oldest rivals.
It was the first victory — home or away — for the Coast under coach Hosea Gear. With it they claimed the PJ Sayers Cup (presented to the East Coast Rugby Union in 1951) for East Coast-Poverty Bay games played on the Coast. It was their first Sayers Cup victory since their 26-8 win at Whakarua Park on June 4, 2016.
That win (the most recent NPEC win against a Heartland union) brought smiles to faces. But tears of joy accompanied their latest triumph at Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park.
The Coast last savored the sweet smell of success against Bay of Plenty Maori, 61-14, at Puarenga Park, Rotorua, on August 10, 2019, in their third pre-season game of the year.
Gear said: “I couldn’t be happier with the match-effort, dedication and commitment of the team. It was an emotional time for many of them, so for them to be able to do the job — for our people and past players — is amazing.
“Our work at set-piece was definitely something that — on recent performances against Poverty Bay — needed to improve, and did. We had a few set-piece strikes that we managed to pull off as well, which was pleasing to see.”
Ecstatic NPEC captain and No.8 Hone Haerewa was “just happy with how the boys turned it on”.
The Coast will face the Tom Cairns-Miah Nikora-coached Bay again, at Rugby Park, Gisborne, in Week 3 of the Heartland Championship, on September 4.
On the line on that day will be the Anaru “Skip” Paenga Memorial Trophy, played for in scarlet territory since 2003, and which Poverty Bay have held since their 52-12 win on August 23, 2014.
Saturday’s game was the Coast’s 700th match, and the 170th clash with the Bay. The sky blues had won 39 of those games against the Bay and drawn five. In all matches since the 8-6 win to Poverty Bay in Gisborne on August 13, 1921, the Coast had 141 wins and 17 draws.
The Bay side was as named the day before. For the Coast, Jody Tuhaka started at hooker for Jorian Tangaere, debutant Sam Matenga at tighthead prop for Adrian Collier, Richard Green came in for Trent Proffit at blindside flanker, Hoani Te Moana moved from openside flanker to lock for Riki Waitoa, and Willy Bolingford was the new fetcher.
The game on Saturday, the Coast’s first with second-year head coach Gear present, was played in windless conditions with sunshowers and perhaps 1200 spectators. Coast captain and No.8 Hone Haerewa won the toss, chose to play from the town end and Bay first five-eighth Jake Holmes kicked off.
The home team made a dream start to open the scoring after two minutes.
Having been awarded the first penalty of the match by NPEC referee Jackson Reuben-Swinton, lock Paddy Allen won a five-man lineout eight metres into Bay territory on the left touch. The hosts made eight more metres driving on Allen, halfback Sam Parkes then found big left-wing Teina Potae running hard on to a short pass, Potae freeing up first-five Te Rangi Fraser on the fly, and he scored between the posts. Parkes converted former Bay of Plenty Steamer Fraser’s lightning try for 7-0.
The Bay struck back in the eighth minute. From an attacking scrum set 15m from the Coast’s goal-line, 15m off the left touch, the reds first brought the bobbling ball under control and then over four phases worked the ball right. Despite the best efforts of the NPEC midfield — who had brought Poverty Bay scrum anchor Toru Noanoa down 2m out — from the ruck, his fellow prop Nehe Papuni drove those 2m to score 8m to the right of the posts. With fullback Andrew Tauatevalu’s conversion, the visitors had drawn level 7-7.
After 18 minutes, excellent work from the Coast forwards set up Fraser for his second try. Five metres from the left corner in Bay territory, Haerewa at No.3 won another five-man lineout. NPEC went right four times before Parkes swung the ball back left, Fraser stepped off the left to wrongfoot the Bay defence and dot down 8m infield. The conversion attempt missed, and the Coast led 12-7.
That remained the score for a further seven minutes, at the conclusion of which Papuni had a double. From an attacking five-man lineout 7m from the left corner in Coast territory, Bay lock Dan Law, jumping at No.3, won the ball. The visitors then came hard right for four phases before Papuni changed course and grounded the ball against the bottom of the left goalpost: by law and in fact, a try.
Plenty of quality in match
Tauatevalu’s conversion gave the Bay their first lead of the match — 14-12.
In the 28th and 32nd minutes, Poverty Bay were penalised in their own half — in the first instance, 32m from their posts and in the second, 37m. From centerfield in both cases, Parkes kicked the goals, NPEC going up 18-14.
On the cusp of halftime, the Coast found Haerewa at No.3 in an attacking five-man lineout 15m from the right corner. Parkes cleared left, and Fraser used Stewart midfield. From the ruck, Parkes went right, wrapped around Allen and cut out fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder and Tuhaka to find Potae, who ran the tightrope on the right touch and improved the position to score 10m to the right of the posts.
It was the best try the Coast had scored from a set move in years, all resting on the timing and quality of the pass from Parkes. It was unconverted, and NPEC led 23-14 at the break.
The first half produced much quality rugby aside from the five tries scored. Poverty Bay locks Fletcher Scammell and Dan Law, the Coast’s second-row yeoman Paddy Allen and his skipper Haerewa were all great value at the lineout. The first-half count of lineouts completed was 8-2 to the home team. The only lineout to go against the throw in the first half was won by Haerewa.
Of completed scrums, the first-half count was 4-4.
Bolingford, later named the Coast’s MVP (most valuable player), carried the ball strongly and Potae was a constant menace. Equally dangerous, with far fewer opportunities, was the Bay’s Aaron McLelland. On debut, the slight YMP right wing was elusive and deceptive. Such skillful players are as valuable now as they have ever been.
Jorian Tangaere replaced Tuhaka for the Coast before the resumption, and in the 47th minute, both teams changed personnel. Poverty Bay’s Rikki Terekia was replaced as hooker and captain by Shayde Skudder, and Papuni made way for the giant Jarryd Broughton. For the Coast, Trent Proffit replaced Green on the blindside and Green moved to lock for Hoani Te Moana.
NPEC scored the first try of the second half 48 minutes in. Parkes fed an attacking scrum 6m from the Bay’s goal-line, a metre to the left of the posts. Haerewa picked up the ball, went right to Parkes, and he sent a sweet pass to Milner-Skudder — All Black No.1146 — who scored 16m in from the right corner for 28-14. That try was unconverted.
Coaches add impact from the substitutes’ bench
In the 53rd minute, Mario Counsel replaced Parkes’s feisty opposite, Ra Broughton, and Austin Brown came on for Holmes. Five minutes later, Juston Allen replaced Bay lock Fletcher Scammell and Keanu Taumata took Fawn White’s place on the openside for Poverty Bay. Taumata’s tackle on Potae in the 61st minute was the best hit — for timing, power and technique — of the game.
In the 63rd minute, the diminutive Josh Dearden replaced the powerhouse Potae, and 66 minutes in Hamuera Moana took the place of Parkes, Collier came on for vice-captain and loosehead prop Perrin Manuel, Waitoa came on for Green and Tanira Nepia, for Bolingford.
The richness of the stories contained within the centenary match includes that of Collier. He played six games for the Coast in 2005; on Saturday, 15 years later, he won his seventh cap for them, off the reserves bench.
In the 70th minute, Poverty Bay made an inspired change: debutant Taine Aupouri for centre Tione Hubbard. Hubbard had a strong all-round game and tackled well above his weight in his third appearance at representative level. With eight minutes to play — NPEC still 28-14 ahead — the scarlets won an attacking scrum 5m out from the Coast’s goal-line, centerfield.
Counsel went left to hard-running second five-eighth Jacob Leaf, who gave a great short ball to Aupouri, who got the ball down 10m to the left of the posts. Tauatevalu curled the ball beautifully to convert and close it to 28-21.
In the 81st minute, the Coast had a defensive six-man lineout 22m from their own goal-line on the right touch. Law, jumping at No.3, intercepted a throw meant for Haerewa, who was a metre further back. Moments later, the Bay were awarded a penalty 17m from the sky blues’ goal-line, just to the right of the posts.
Blindside flanker Jesse Kapene chose to tap-kick and run. He charged 10m but referee Reuben-Swinton ruled, at the next ruck, that the ball had been lost forward on the ground.
The referee blew his whistle for fulltime, the crowd took the field, and the players embraced their teammates and opponents.
Jarryd Broughton played his best game for Poverty Bay to date in his fourth representative match, carrying the ball 10 times to devastating effect. The scrum battle, which was an even contest to the break, was one in which the Bay had the upper hand from halftime, although neither pack took a tighthead. Broughton made his presence felt there.
Bay skipper and hooker Rikki Terekia was proud of his big prop.
“Jarryd solidified the scrums and made some strong, dominant carries,” said Terekia, who felt that his crew had put themselves on the line for the entire game.
“We’re getting better; we’ll just keep working.”
Scammell has been superb for HSOB in the past month and only a very capable, experienced, quality player could relieve him. Such a player, capped for the 29th time, was Juston Allen. His lineout work was exceptional.
Bay co-coach Miah Nikora spoke good rugby sense in the aftermath.
“In the second half, although we had a lot of ball and the territorial advantage, we weren’t clinical enough to come away with points,” he said.
‘All of our players gave it their best shot’
“I can’t fault the effort from our boys; the Coast were just a bit better on the day. Everyone who came off the bench for us brought a lot of energy. All of our players gave it their best shot.”
Tom Cairns said it wasn’t the result they wanted, but it was a good first hit-out for their 2021 campaign.
“It was a nice introduction for some guys to Heartland level and above . . . it was a good hit-out for our crew and a good centenary day for the Coast.”
He said Aaron McLelland and Dan Law were “exceptional” in their debuts.
“Dan Law was all over the place in terms of work rate and what he did. Aaron had some good touches and looks as if he’ll be a real quality player.”
He said they expected NPEC to come out hot in the first half and their physicality took them off their game.
“We were a bit disconnected on defence early on and let them in for a couple (of early tries), but we tightened that up in the second half.”
For Hosea Gear’s team? This was the best performance by the Coast since their Meads Cup-winning heroics of nine years ago. They were disciplined and played with structure, while sacrificing none of their flair. They took the four try-scoring opportunities on offer and Parkes’s two penalty goals, which took the home team from 14-12 down, to 18-14 in front eight minutes before halftime, were crucial.
Assistant referees Eruera Kawhia and Melvin Ashford were unobtrusive, while whistle-blower Jackson Reuben-Swinton served rugby to the best of his ability in the biggest game played at Whakarua Park in nine years.
The game was played in good spirit: not a single card was issued.
It was entertaining stuff, and the subtleties of Milner-Skudder’s kicking game would not have been lost on astute observers. Wisely, Poverty Bay never kicked the ball straight to him in open pasture and that indicates that the scarlet outfit are being mentored and steered intelligently.
Both sides have the right to concentrate on positive aspects of the game because there were many positives to take from it, particularly in the forward exchanges.
(With additional reporting by Jack Malcolm)
by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published June 08, 2021 11:52AM