Reeves back for crunch Heartland clash

Ethine Reeves is a surprise return to the Poverty Bay side for their crucial final round-robin Heartland Championship clash against Buller at Rugby Park tomorrow.

The mercurial Reeves pulled out of the squad after week two of the eight-week competition, citing work and personal commitments.

However, with 10th-placed Bay needing to beat Buller (11th) to have any chance of making the Lochore Cup (fifth-to-eighth) semifinals, Reeves has made himself available.

“We’re a bit short on numbers in the backs and Ethan has offered to help,” said Bay coach Mana Otai.

Reeves will play at centre, alongside Waikohu clubmate Kelvin Smith, with Tom Iosefo retaining the No.10 jersey.

Anything other than a Bay win means their season is over.

They also need a couple of other results to go their way — King Country (4th) to beat Mid Canterbury (7th) and Wairarapa Bush (6th) to beat North Otago (9th) while a little help from bottom-of-the-table neighbours Ngati Porou East Coast, who face West Coast (8th), would be much appreciated.

First, however, is the not-so-small matter of beating Buller.

Before last weekend, the Bay would have fancied their chances against a side yet to register a win this season.

Buller proceeded to throw the form book out the window and deal Mid Canterbury’s top-four aspirations a huge blow with a 37-19 thumping.

“I watched a video of the Buller-Mid Canterbury game and Buller fully deserved to win,” Otai said.

“Their forwards did a good job of getting the ball to their backs and James Lash (first five-eighth) did a good job of turning Mid Canterbury around.

Lash, one of the best No.10s in the Heartland Championship, kicked three conversions and three penalties, and will be a key man for his side tomorrow.

Otai has retained the forward pack who have started in recent weeks, including lock Sam McDell (lock) and Jesse Kapene (No.8).

“Sam has come from nowhere,” said Otai. “I didn’t even know him at the start of the year.

“He started in the reserves but did enough to earn a starting spot, and has cemented that with consistently good performances.

“Jesse got his chance when Ken Houkamau picked up an injury and has not looked back.

“But it’s also great to have someone like Ken coming off the bench with his experience and commitment.

“He also brings leadership qualities, as well as being a player who is prepared to put his body on the line for the team every game.”

POVERTY BAY (1-15): Toru Noanoa, Tamanui Hill, Andrew Petelo, Jacob Cook, Sam McDell, Fawn White, Callum McDonald, Jesse Kapene, Mario Counsell, Tom Iosefo, Korey Love, Kelvin Smith, Ethine Reeves, Te Peee Fairlie, Andrew Tauatevalu. Reserves: Shayde Skudder, Campbell Chrisp, Semisi Akana, Ken Houkamau, Willy Grogan, Oka Sanerivi, Matt Raleigh.

Ethine Reeves is a surprise return to the Poverty Bay side for their crucial final round-robin Heartland Championship clash against Buller at Rugby Park tomorrow.

The mercurial Reeves pulled out of the squad after week two of the eight-week competition, citing work and personal commitments.

However, with 10th-placed Bay needing to beat Buller (11th) to have any chance of making the Lochore Cup (fifth-to-eighth) semifinals, Reeves has made himself available.

“We’re a bit short on numbers in the backs and Ethan has offered to help,” said Bay coach Mana Otai.

Reeves will play at centre, alongside Waikohu clubmate Kelvin Smith, with Tom Iosefo retaining the No.10 jersey.

Anything other than a Bay win means their season is over.

They also need a couple of other results to go their way — King Country (4th) to beat Mid Canterbury (7th) and Wairarapa Bush (6th) to beat North Otago (9th) while a little help from bottom-of-the-table neighbours Ngati Porou East Coast, who face West Coast (8th), would be much appreciated.

First, however, is the not-so-small matter of beating Buller.

Before last weekend, the Bay would have fancied their chances against a side yet to register a win this season.

Buller proceeded to throw the form book out the window and deal Mid Canterbury’s top-four aspirations a huge blow with a 37-19 thumping.

“I watched a video of the Buller-Mid Canterbury game and Buller fully deserved to win,” Otai said.

“Their forwards did a good job of getting the ball to their backs and James Lash (first five-eighth) did a good job of turning Mid Canterbury around.

Lash, one of the best No.10s in the Heartland Championship, kicked three conversions and three penalties, and will be a key man for his side tomorrow.

Otai has retained the forward pack who have started in recent weeks, including lock Sam McDell (lock) and Jesse Kapene (No.8).

“Sam has come from nowhere,” said Otai. “I didn’t even know him at the start of the year.

“He started in the reserves but did enough to earn a starting spot, and has cemented that with consistently good performances.

“Jesse got his chance when Ken Houkamau picked up an injury and has not looked back.

“But it’s also great to have someone like Ken coming off the bench with his experience and commitment.

“He also brings leadership qualities, as well as being a player who is prepared to put his body on the line for the team every game.”

POVERTY BAY (1-15): Toru Noanoa, Tamanui Hill, Andrew Petelo, Jacob Cook, Sam McDell, Fawn White, Callum McDonald, Jesse Kapene, Mario Counsell, Tom Iosefo, Korey Love, Kelvin Smith, Ethine Reeves, Te Peee Fairlie, Andrew Tauatevalu. Reserves: Shayde Skudder, Campbell Chrisp, Semisi Akana, Ken Houkamau, Willy Grogan, Oka Sanerivi, Matt Raleigh.

HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP

P W D L F A B Pts

Wanganui 7 7 - - 274 86 6 34

Sth Cant. 7 5 - 2 308 120 7 27

Thames V 7 5 - 2 250 200 7 27

King Country 7 5 - 2 272 202 6 26

Horo. Kapiti 7 4 - 3 219 194 7 23

Wai. Bush 7 4 - 3 212 171 5 17

Mid Cant. 7 3 - 4 196 202 5 17

West Coast 7 3 - 4 166 215 5 17

North Otago 7 3 - 4 189 209 4 16

Poverty Bay 7 2 - 5 166 261 7 15

Buller 7 1 - 6 182 262 7 11

East Coast 7 - - 7 73 385 1 1

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