Bay a win away from playoff place

PASS IT ON: Poverty Bay first five-eighth Kelvin Smith prepares to set up an attack against Horowhenua Kapiti. Smith is one of two surviving members, along with Sione Ngatu, of the last Bay team to win the Lochore Cup, in 2011.
Smith was a winger then, and Ngatu, who now plays tighthead prop, wore the No.6 jersey.
Both scored tries in a 49-22 victory as the Grainger Heikell/Trevor Crosby-coached team produced a tremendous display of attacking rugby to beat favourites South Canterbury in Timaru.
Bay skipper and No.10 Scotty Leighton converted five of the six tries and kicked three penalties.
Ngatu and Smith are expected to start this week’s Heartland Championship clash against Thames Valley, a game the Bay must win to make the playoffs. Picture by Paul Rickard
Mana Otai. Picture supplied

POVERTY Bay coach Mana Otai says he can see “light at the end of the tunnel” as he prepares for Saturday’s crucial Heartland Championship rugby match against Thames Valley in Te Aroha.

“One of the things that I place a lot of emphasis on when coaching is character, and the boys showed plenty of that against King Country,” the former Tongan international coach said.

“We’re going to need it again this weekend.

“If we win we’re in the playoffs (for the Lochore Cup, fifth-to-eighth-placed teams in the 12-team competition). If Thames Valley win they’re in. Both teams have plenty to play for.

“I was especially encouraged by the character and performance from the boys at the weekend (a 43-29 win against King Country). If you get the performance right, your chances of winning increase.”

Otai said he had been learning from coaching Heartland players.

“Obviously the skill level is not as high as for internationals, but there are some very skilful players in this competition.

“I’ve learned a lot working with players who are forestry workers or shearers, who can be out working in the backblocks of Manutuke or further afield.

“I’ve been out with some of those guys and it’s been priceless. When they ring you up and say they will be late or can’t make it to training, I understand where they’re coming from.

“In the professional game, if a player said he couldn’t make training or was going to be late, I’d say, ‘Sorry, but you won’t be playing’. There’s a huge difference in coaching at this level.

“It’s also about family and work commitments. At the higher level you’re focused on skill and fitness and you and the players have time to work on those areas.

“Here it’s also about outside factors for each individual player, while still trying to improve skill levels and fitness.”
With four Lochore Cup titles, including a hat-trick of wins — 2006, ’07 and ’08 — the Bay are the most successful province in this competition.

However, the last time the trophy came to Gisborne was in 2011, when the Grainger Heikell/Trevor Crosby-coached side beat South Canterbury 49-22 in Timaru.

The Bay had lost 42-31 to South Canterbury in Round 4 in 2011 but set up the win with four tries in the first 25 minutes of the second half . . . a feature of the Bay’s past two wins this season.

Against King Country, the sides were level at halftime, 19-all, before Otai’s men won the second half 24-10.

Against West Coast in Gisborne two weeks ago, the Bay trailed 15-11 at the break but stormed back to score 24 unanswered points. But the Bay will have to do what they have not done all season — win on the road.

POVERTY Bay coach Mana Otai says he can see “light at the end of the tunnel” as he prepares for Saturday’s crucial Heartland Championship rugby match against Thames Valley in Te Aroha.

“One of the things that I place a lot of emphasis on when coaching is character, and the boys showed plenty of that against King Country,” the former Tongan international coach said.

“We’re going to need it again this weekend.

“If we win we’re in the playoffs (for the Lochore Cup, fifth-to-eighth-placed teams in the 12-team competition). If Thames Valley win they’re in. Both teams have plenty to play for.

“I was especially encouraged by the character and performance from the boys at the weekend (a 43-29 win against King Country). If you get the performance right, your chances of winning increase.”

Otai said he had been learning from coaching Heartland players.

“Obviously the skill level is not as high as for internationals, but there are some very skilful players in this competition.

“I’ve learned a lot working with players who are forestry workers or shearers, who can be out working in the backblocks of Manutuke or further afield.

“I’ve been out with some of those guys and it’s been priceless. When they ring you up and say they will be late or can’t make it to training, I understand where they’re coming from.

“In the professional game, if a player said he couldn’t make training or was going to be late, I’d say, ‘Sorry, but you won’t be playing’. There’s a huge difference in coaching at this level.

“It’s also about family and work commitments. At the higher level you’re focused on skill and fitness and you and the players have time to work on those areas.

“Here it’s also about outside factors for each individual player, while still trying to improve skill levels and fitness.”
With four Lochore Cup titles, including a hat-trick of wins — 2006, ’07 and ’08 — the Bay are the most successful province in this competition.

However, the last time the trophy came to Gisborne was in 2011, when the Grainger Heikell/Trevor Crosby-coached side beat South Canterbury 49-22 in Timaru.

The Bay had lost 42-31 to South Canterbury in Round 4 in 2011 but set up the win with four tries in the first 25 minutes of the second half . . . a feature of the Bay’s past two wins this season.

Against King Country, the sides were level at halftime, 19-all, before Otai’s men won the second half 24-10.

Against West Coast in Gisborne two weeks ago, the Bay trailed 15-11 at the break but stormed back to score 24 unanswered points. But the Bay will have to do what they have not done all season — win on the road.

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