Match of the day . . .

Uawa and Hikurangi in titanic duel.

Uawa and Hikurangi in titanic duel.

Rugby EC Final TVC v Hikurangi - Te Kaiwi Parata, Moana Mato

Once seen, you can’t unsee it . . . and there’s no getting away from it.

That’s East Coast rugby, in this Week 3 of the second round of club competition.

Uawa play Hikurangi at the Domain in Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay United are at home to Tihirau Victory Club at Hatea-a-Rangi, Waiapu play Tokararangi in Rangitukia and Hicks Bay play Ruatoria City in Wharekahika. All games start at 2.30pm.

Hikurangi retained the Kath McLean Memorial Trophy as winners of the first round, and 10 weeks into the 2018 season they have the best record of all eight teams: nine wins, one loss, 40 points in total.

That 17-15 loss to Uawa at Whakarua Park in Week 3 made a last-minute hero of veteran hooker Richard Tuhaka.

In Week 6, last year’s champions Tihirau Victory Club beat then-leaders Uawa. Hikurangi (26pts) went two points ahead of Uawa (24) that day, and they’ve kept a separation ever since.

Heading into Week 10, Hikurangi have 40 points, Uawa 39, TVC 37, Tokararangi 28, Ruatoria City 14, Tokomaru Bay United 12, Hicks Bay 11 and Waiapu five.

Hikurangi lost the Charlie (Chas) Keelan Memorial Shield to Uawa on April 21. To get it back, they will have to put into practice the lessons learned since then when opportunity knocks.

“The boys are keen — if they need any inspiration, they only have to think about the game in the first round,” Hikurangi captain and hooker Ngarimu Parata said.

“Playing Uawa in Tolaga Bay, we have to make sure we execute. We didn’t finish well last time, so that’s what our focus is.”

Hikurangi No.8 Rhys Walker, player of the day for “the Mountain” against Ruatoria City three weeks ago, was superb then. His wore his heart on his sleeve, scored a second-half try and tackled magnificently.

Although Hikurangi have played less rugby than any other team — two teams have defaulted to them — they showed steel and skill in equal measure to come back from 8-5 down to triumph 22-8 in the local derby against Ruatoria City on May 26.

Uawa’s regular captain, Scott Lasenby, is unavailable this Saturday due to family commitments, but at training tonight — when a captain for the weekend will be named — Lasenby intends to give a crystal-clear message to the team: “Play hard but stay disciplined for the 80 minutes and be clinical in all aspects of the game. Be strong at set piece and win the battle at the breakdown.”

The penalty count against Uawa was 25-8 last Saturday.

Both Uawa and TVC have 10 second-round points, Hikurangi have nine and Tokararangi have five. The landscape will change this Saturday.

Tihirau Victory Club will have thought this through.

While top priority will no doubt be to overcome a feisty Tokomaru Bay United team at home, the maths are that a four-try victory would see TVC trade third spot for second — were Uawa to lose at home — unless Uawa scored four tries themselves while being within seven points of Hikurangi in a loss.

TVC beat United 48-0 in Round 1. But in the last meeting on United’s turf — on May 13 last year — the home team played one of the most courageous hands seen that season. They lost 24-15 to the eventual champions, a team to whom they had defaulted in the season opener.

Game 1 in 2018 was a baptism of fire — if not a shock to the system — for TVC. They had to fight back from 21-14 down at the break to edge out a ravenous Tokararangi 36-33 in Te Araroa. Such things can take years off a coach’s life, yet TVC player-coach Whetu Haerewa is no less purposeful for it.

“We are going to focus this weekend on our set piece,” he said.

“We have a few tough games at the back end of the season, so we’re looking to get the small stuff right.”

TVC captain and second five-eighth Moana Mato is very pleased with his forwards’ output nine games in and, like Haerewa, wants the team to get back to basics and establish a pattern before becoming expansive.

United won their last game — a home fixture — 29-22 against Hicks Bay in a superb performance three weeks ago. It was their second victory of the season.

United’s 41-13 loss to Hikurangi on April 14 was the closest result of Week 2, after they were just a point behind — 13 chasing 14 — at halftime.

United captain and loosehead prop Adam Williams has played consistently well and is a strong scrummager, as is TVC tighthead Rawiri Waititi.

Williams knows that to beat TVC is a big ask, but the likes of Saul Parata (lock) and Seb Chambers-Raroa (second-five) can hold their own, man to man, even against the champions.

“We’ve struggled this season; it’s been hard,” Williams said.

“But old players have come back and given us a hand. That’s what we do — we help out. Let’s just see what happens.”

Who could — or would want to — call this?

Ruatoria City are placed fifth in the standings with 14 points; Hicks Bay are seventh, with 11.

City coach Lisa Muller has focused this week on defence and finishing, Hicks Bay having won the first-round fixture 14-5 at Whakarua Park.

Prop Dylan Biddle and captain and No.8 Frank Taiapa scored tries for Hicks Bay, while 17-year-old Mikaere Bell claimed City’s first five-pointer in 2018.

City have improved greatly since then, yet there is no denying that they have been hit by a bus, in terms of injuries, in the lead-up to what was already a hard game to call. Three shoulders, two sets of ribs, two tender backs, one ankle, one finger: it’s a list that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

“We’ve played strong rugby lately but 80 percent of the squad are hurting,” Muller said.

“They won the last meeting so the onus is on us — we’ve got to do it this time.”

Hicks Bay are coming off a 47-17 loss against Tokararangi at Te Araroa — Biddle was player of the day for the visitors and propped on the loosehead side last Saturday, yet played on the tighthead side in the April 21 meeting. The ability of a prop to play on both sides is important for both technical development and tactical reasons.

Biddle has had a strong season for Hicks Bay, as has fullback Sean Murtagh. Made skipper in the absence of the injured Taiapa, Murtagh has done that job well.

The same goes for City No.8 and skipper Tim Barbarich. Although City have lost an outstanding eightman and leader in Paddy Allen, Barbarich is deserving of the top job. He’s tough across the board, as City will need to be if they’re to stay ahead of United, Hicks Bay and Waiapu.

Tokararangi versus Waiapu will be compelling.

On April 21, Tokararangi beat Waiapu 81-0. By the end, they had scored 13 tries, with three players having scored two tries apiece.

Waiapu’s Kahu Waitoa is one of the Coast’s most dedicated, hard-working and honest coaches. He said simply after that Week 3 clash that Tokararangi had been too quick for them to catch.

City went winless until the dam broke with a 54-31 win against United at Whakarua Park in Week 5.

Waiapu’s lean trot ended a week later with a glorious 52-22 victory over United at Hatea-a-Rangi.

If Waiapu pull off a win at George Nepia Memorial Park on Saturday, it would be an amazing result. No matter the result or the score at Rangitukia, it will be rugby with relish.

Match control for Saturday —

Uawa v Hikurangi: Whiti Timutimu, Victor Herbert.

Tokomaru Bay United v TVC: Harawira Matahiki.

Waiapu v Tokararangi: Matt Richards, Melvin Ashford.

Hicks Bay v Ruatoria City: James Palmer.

Once seen, you can’t unsee it . . . and there’s no getting away from it.

That’s East Coast rugby, in this Week 3 of the second round of club competition.

Uawa play Hikurangi at the Domain in Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay United are at home to Tihirau Victory Club at Hatea-a-Rangi, Waiapu play Tokararangi in Rangitukia and Hicks Bay play Ruatoria City in Wharekahika. All games start at 2.30pm.

Hikurangi retained the Kath McLean Memorial Trophy as winners of the first round, and 10 weeks into the 2018 season they have the best record of all eight teams: nine wins, one loss, 40 points in total.

That 17-15 loss to Uawa at Whakarua Park in Week 3 made a last-minute hero of veteran hooker Richard Tuhaka.

In Week 6, last year’s champions Tihirau Victory Club beat then-leaders Uawa. Hikurangi (26pts) went two points ahead of Uawa (24) that day, and they’ve kept a separation ever since.

Heading into Week 10, Hikurangi have 40 points, Uawa 39, TVC 37, Tokararangi 28, Ruatoria City 14, Tokomaru Bay United 12, Hicks Bay 11 and Waiapu five.

Hikurangi lost the Charlie (Chas) Keelan Memorial Shield to Uawa on April 21. To get it back, they will have to put into practice the lessons learned since then when opportunity knocks.

“The boys are keen — if they need any inspiration, they only have to think about the game in the first round,” Hikurangi captain and hooker Ngarimu Parata said.

“Playing Uawa in Tolaga Bay, we have to make sure we execute. We didn’t finish well last time, so that’s what our focus is.”

Hikurangi No.8 Rhys Walker, player of the day for “the Mountain” against Ruatoria City three weeks ago, was superb then. His wore his heart on his sleeve, scored a second-half try and tackled magnificently.

Although Hikurangi have played less rugby than any other team — two teams have defaulted to them — they showed steel and skill in equal measure to come back from 8-5 down to triumph 22-8 in the local derby against Ruatoria City on May 26.

Uawa’s regular captain, Scott Lasenby, is unavailable this Saturday due to family commitments, but at training tonight — when a captain for the weekend will be named — Lasenby intends to give a crystal-clear message to the team: “Play hard but stay disciplined for the 80 minutes and be clinical in all aspects of the game. Be strong at set piece and win the battle at the breakdown.”

The penalty count against Uawa was 25-8 last Saturday.

Both Uawa and TVC have 10 second-round points, Hikurangi have nine and Tokararangi have five. The landscape will change this Saturday.

Tihirau Victory Club will have thought this through.

While top priority will no doubt be to overcome a feisty Tokomaru Bay United team at home, the maths are that a four-try victory would see TVC trade third spot for second — were Uawa to lose at home — unless Uawa scored four tries themselves while being within seven points of Hikurangi in a loss.

TVC beat United 48-0 in Round 1. But in the last meeting on United’s turf — on May 13 last year — the home team played one of the most courageous hands seen that season. They lost 24-15 to the eventual champions, a team to whom they had defaulted in the season opener.

Game 1 in 2018 was a baptism of fire — if not a shock to the system — for TVC. They had to fight back from 21-14 down at the break to edge out a ravenous Tokararangi 36-33 in Te Araroa. Such things can take years off a coach’s life, yet TVC player-coach Whetu Haerewa is no less purposeful for it.

“We are going to focus this weekend on our set piece,” he said.

“We have a few tough games at the back end of the season, so we’re looking to get the small stuff right.”

TVC captain and second five-eighth Moana Mato is very pleased with his forwards’ output nine games in and, like Haerewa, wants the team to get back to basics and establish a pattern before becoming expansive.

United won their last game — a home fixture — 29-22 against Hicks Bay in a superb performance three weeks ago. It was their second victory of the season.

United’s 41-13 loss to Hikurangi on April 14 was the closest result of Week 2, after they were just a point behind — 13 chasing 14 — at halftime.

United captain and loosehead prop Adam Williams has played consistently well and is a strong scrummager, as is TVC tighthead Rawiri Waititi.

Williams knows that to beat TVC is a big ask, but the likes of Saul Parata (lock) and Seb Chambers-Raroa (second-five) can hold their own, man to man, even against the champions.

“We’ve struggled this season; it’s been hard,” Williams said.

“But old players have come back and given us a hand. That’s what we do — we help out. Let’s just see what happens.”

Who could — or would want to — call this?

Ruatoria City are placed fifth in the standings with 14 points; Hicks Bay are seventh, with 11.

City coach Lisa Muller has focused this week on defence and finishing, Hicks Bay having won the first-round fixture 14-5 at Whakarua Park.

Prop Dylan Biddle and captain and No.8 Frank Taiapa scored tries for Hicks Bay, while 17-year-old Mikaere Bell claimed City’s first five-pointer in 2018.

City have improved greatly since then, yet there is no denying that they have been hit by a bus, in terms of injuries, in the lead-up to what was already a hard game to call. Three shoulders, two sets of ribs, two tender backs, one ankle, one finger: it’s a list that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

“We’ve played strong rugby lately but 80 percent of the squad are hurting,” Muller said.

“They won the last meeting so the onus is on us — we’ve got to do it this time.”

Hicks Bay are coming off a 47-17 loss against Tokararangi at Te Araroa — Biddle was player of the day for the visitors and propped on the loosehead side last Saturday, yet played on the tighthead side in the April 21 meeting. The ability of a prop to play on both sides is important for both technical development and tactical reasons.

Biddle has had a strong season for Hicks Bay, as has fullback Sean Murtagh. Made skipper in the absence of the injured Taiapa, Murtagh has done that job well.

The same goes for City No.8 and skipper Tim Barbarich. Although City have lost an outstanding eightman and leader in Paddy Allen, Barbarich is deserving of the top job. He’s tough across the board, as City will need to be if they’re to stay ahead of United, Hicks Bay and Waiapu.

Tokararangi versus Waiapu will be compelling.

On April 21, Tokararangi beat Waiapu 81-0. By the end, they had scored 13 tries, with three players having scored two tries apiece.

Waiapu’s Kahu Waitoa is one of the Coast’s most dedicated, hard-working and honest coaches. He said simply after that Week 3 clash that Tokararangi had been too quick for them to catch.

City went winless until the dam broke with a 54-31 win against United at Whakarua Park in Week 5.

Waiapu’s lean trot ended a week later with a glorious 52-22 victory over United at Hatea-a-Rangi.

If Waiapu pull off a win at George Nepia Memorial Park on Saturday, it would be an amazing result. No matter the result or the score at Rangitukia, it will be rugby with relish.

Match control for Saturday —

Uawa v Hikurangi: Whiti Timutimu, Victor Herbert.

Tokomaru Bay United v TVC: Harawira Matahiki.

Waiapu v Tokararangi: Matt Richards, Melvin Ashford.

Hicks Bay v Ruatoria City: James Palmer.

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