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Off the Ball for 8 October

Representative Rugby | 08 October 2018 | Club Rugby

Off the Ball for 8 October

The Mairst St Pat's and Tawa teams after the Plate final of the Tawa Invitational 7s on Saturday. MSP won 24-19. More details below.

Off the Ball is in association with Rob Law Max, Lovelocks Sports Bar,  Motor Doctors and Sarah Kilner Real Estate 

Looking at some of the news in briefs, milestones, happenings, statistics and observations from the weekend of rugby just gone and what’s coming up this week.

This coming weekend there are two separate rugby events for supporters to choose between, plus a third college sevens tournament over the hill in Masterton.

At Porirua Park, there is a double-header of representative XVs games. The Wellington Pride host North Harbour in their Farah Palmer Cup Championship semi-final and the Wellington Development host Auckland B in their final match of the year.

At Maoribank Park, Upper Hutt, the first leg of three of the American Ambassador’s Sevens series runs throughout the day.

In Masterton the Hurricanes Youth Rugby Council’s annual secondary school sevens tournament takes place, involving leading school sevens sides from throughout the Hurricanes region.

In one away match, the Wellington Lions travel to New Plymouth on Friday night to take on Taranaki in the final regular season of the National Provincial Championship.

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This week the Wellington U18 girls are in Napier this week competing in the inaugural Hurricanes U18 Girls tournament. Wellington joins Hawke’s Bay, Poverty Bay and Manawatu in a round-robin pool played over two days and the finals on Thursday.

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The Lions enter the Bullring at Rugby Park, New Plymouth needing to beat Taranaki with a bonus point to ensure they qualify for the top four for next weekend’s Men’s NPC semi-finals ahead of North Harbour whom they are currently equal with on 29 points and who they beat earlier in the round-robin.

Should the Lions come away with anything less than 5 competition points then the door is ajar for North Harbour to leapfrog them on Sunday in their ‘Battle of the Bridge’ encounter with Auckland.

Taranaki will be fired up though, needing to beat Wellington to have a shot at staving off relegation to the Championship division for 2019. In turn, they would then wait to see if Counties-Manukau can beat Canterbury 24 hours later on Saturday night.

The amber and blacks could be without angry young man and former All Black Jarrad Hoeata, who was red carded early in his team’s 7-41 defeat to robotic Canterbury on Saturday.

The Lions will also be defending the John F. Henning Trophy, donated for play between these two unions in 1969 by the then US Ambassador when man walked on the moon. Last year Wellington won 42-26, the year before Taranaki prevailed 54-31. 

The match between Wellington and Taranaki in 1907 remains the only provincial match to be officially abandoned in New Zealand. The weather was so bad the referee called the game off at halftime, with Wellington leading 3-0.

RLM

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The Wellington Pride enjoyed a record-breaking 118-0 win over Taranaki on Saturday. As the scoreline suggests, the Pride’s set-piece power and pace in the backs as well as their bruising defence overwhelmed Taranaki.

It was hard for anyone not to have a bad game, but Petone loosehead prop Elieta Taito would have been pleased with her NPC debut. Off the bench, Avalon’s Kiri Mei had a blinder, while Ories flanker Joanah Ngan-Woo had another busy 80 minute shift. Left wing Ayesha Leti-L’iga scored a double and has now scored 29 tries in 25 games for the Pride and 11 this season, which surpasses the 10 scored by Shakira Barker in 2011.

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If the Women’s NPC wants to sustain 12 teams, and even grow to 14 if Southland and Northland are added then one way for this this happen could be to spread the talent around more. It is hard being an amateur competition, but if several of the bottom tier or newer teams were given one or two ‘marquee’ players or Black Ferns to bolster their ranks then their teams could grow around them. Of course, Kendra Cocksedge might not be in a position to return home to play for Taranaki but her presence alone would have kept the scoreline to under 100 points against the Pride.

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In Men’s NPC rugby yesterday, former Johnsonville and Oriental-Rongotai lock Kane Leaupepe scored the winning try for Bay of Plenty in the Steamers’ 26-22 win over Southland.

The loss for the Stags was their 19th-straight NPC defeat, taking them level with Northland's effort between 2014-2016. They play Auckland on Wednesday so the record could go then.

The Southland team featured two former Poneke players, Sosi Tuimavae at fullback and former Poneke Player of the Year Presley Tufuga off the bench. Tufaga was making his NPC debut, having been plying his trade for Ponsonby for Auckland after leaving Poneke in 2014. The BoP Steamers line-up included former and current Wellington club rugby players Chase Tiatia at fullback, Luke Campbell at halfback, Hoani Matenga at No. 8, Leaupepe at lock, and Valentine Meachen and Richard Judd on the bench.

The NPC powerbase in the South Island has certainly shifted north, Otago going down 21-47 to Tasman yesterday at home, after trailing 0-28 at halftime.

Should Southland/Otago combine? Should other teams combine, such as Manawatu/Wanganui?

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In the Heartland Championship, Wanganui are clearly the number one team. They beat bottom placed East Coast 56-10 on Saturday to record their seventh straight victory and play Horowhenua Kapiti this coming Saturday to try and complete an unbeaten round-robin season. How would Wanganui go against Southland?

Heading into the last round, Horowhenua-Kapiti are currently fifth after losing 27-29 to third placed Thames Valley on Saturday. Tawa’s James So’oialo scored a try and 22 of his side’s points. Wairarapa Bush are a spot back in sixth after beating West Coast 23-5. Rumours of one of the Heartland teams fielding ineligible players for two games have obviously come to nothing as well.

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A successful day in the sun at Lyndhurst Park for the 12 teams competing in the Tawa Invitational 7s tournament. There were some genuinely exciting and competitive games. Norths struck first blow for the summer by beating the Upper Hutt Rams 19-10 in the Cup final.

The Norths team that won was: Alfredo Walton, Darius Patau, Daley Harper, Eli Moata’a, Esi Komaisavai, Fala Tuala, Johnny Teleaga, Joseph Faleafaga, Junior Time-Taotua, Liki Siliga, Misi Faimalo and Parekura Lalaga.

The tournament was well run by the Tawa RFC, and the WRRA did a great job officiating.

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In this column last week we asked about the fitness status of Leni Apisai. It was therefore encouraging to hear of him returning to action after a four-month injury layoff to play 25 minutes for the Wellington Development team against Canterbury B on Saturday. Dane Coles could be back shortly too, so these two plus Asafo Aumua and James O’Reilly could provide selection headaches for the Lions and Development squad selectors.

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Both Wellington players in the team were at the forefront of the All Blacks’ comeback 32-20 win over South Africa on Sunday morning, TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea both providing spark and impetus off the bench in the win. Savea scored the winning try, and for the second Test in a row was one of the one team’s most valuable players.

How would this win rate amongst other All Blacks wins in South Africa against the Springboks?

In the Test that followed in Argentina, the Wallabies were down 7-31 at halftime but came back to win 45-34.

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Former Wellington College First XV powerhouse Nelson Asofa-Solomona was one of the best players in the Storm’s NRL final loss to Easts last weekend. Any murmurs of him returning to rugby after next year’s RWC have been quashed with him signing a four-year contract extension that will see him remain at Melbourne until 2023.

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The power of rugby's TMOs have been reined in significantly as World Rugby seeks to put the control of the game back in the hands of the referee.

The game's governing body has announced a series of changes to how the game will be officiated for the November tests, with the contentious 'on the run' chat between the match officials and TMO for foul play to be removed and the onus put on the referee to make on-field decisions for tries. 

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Mental wellbeing will be the focus for New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship and Farah Palmer Cup Provincial Unions this week as they show their support for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and players share tips about coping with stress and pressure. The Wellbeing Round is an initiative driven by New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) wellbeing programme, Headfirst and will encourage players, coaches, referees and fans to follow the MHAW theme of Let Nature In, Strengthen Your Wellbeing.

Players will be sharing their own tips via social media videos this week as they begin the business end of their respective competitions as the NPC enters the final round of the regular season and the Farah Palmer Cup heads into semi-finals.

The Wellbeing Round will coincide with New Zealand's MHAW which runs from Monday, 8 October to Sunday, 14 October.

Contribute to Off the Ball by emailing editor@clubrugby.co.nz 

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