PJ Sayers Cup Queens Birthday
June 4, 2022, 2:30 pm
Ngati Porou East Coast
12 - 46
Poverty Bay RFU
Whakarua Park, Ruatoria
Poverty Bay RFU
Referee: Andrew Morton

Match Report

Rugby people here are hard to impress.

But all who saw Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay beat the Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast Kaupoi 46-12 on Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2022, to claim the PJ Sayers Cup, must agree: the visitors at Whakarua Park in Ruatoria played hard, fast and skilfully.

The team in scarlet led 18-0 at half-time; outscored the Sky Blues by seven tries to two. Under Bay of Plenty whistle-blower Andrew Morton – who with his assistants Ben Holt (PB) and Shirley Mullany-Mato (NPEC) was on first-class debut – one of the fastest pre-season games between the unions in recent history was complemented by a superb refereeing display.

Three Bay players – Mario Counsell (halfback, 32nd minute), Stuart Leach (openside flanker, 55m), Rikki Terekia (reserve hooker, 77m) – and one Coast player, Hakarangi Tichborne (loosehead prop, 60m), received yellow cards but aside from a misunderstanding which arose out of concern for Coast centre Tutere Waenga midway through the first half, neither team so much as frowned at the other.

Poverty Bay head coach Miah Nikora – as co-coach in 2021 – saw the Coast win the Queen’s Birthday fixture 28-23 at Ruatoria and last season’s Heartland Championship clash 31-28 in Gisborne.

The Bay had won six games straight prior up to 2021.

“It’s always tough against the Coast and Saturday was no different. We started strongly and played direct rugby early on, but when things opened up, our skill and option-taking was good to see,” said Nikora. “We were pleased with the game, to have put stuff we’d trained to do into practice; we didn’t get it all right, but the attitude was great across the board. It was also pleasing to give new guys – Stu, Moses Christie (fullback), Ricardo Patricio (reserve first-five) and Solomoni Rasari (reserve second-five) an opportunity at this level and they all did really well.”

NPEC head coach Hosea Gear has stressed the importance of self-evaluation and personal responsibility in the last three years.

“It was good that our boys got to have a look at themselves on Saturday, and see what they’ve got to work on,” said Gear, who returned to Brisbane yesterday morning. “Some may have thought that they were training enough – this result is a good indicator that they could still do more.

There’s no better motivation and situation to be in than to have just been embarrassed by an outstanding, well-drilled team. I’ve been in that position many times in my career. This is a true test of character, of who’s willing to work.”

Sky Blues skipper hooker Perrin Manuel acknowledged his crew’s grit and creditable performance at set-piece. NPEC had trained together as a squad just twice in the lead-up to the traditional rivals’ first meeting for the year.

Bay co-captains lock Dan Law and first-five Kelvin Smith led the visitors by example: Law’s line-out duel with his second-row opposite Paddy Allen was a beauty. Smith scored a try, kicked a penalty goal and four conversions.

Law called heads correctly at the coin-toss and chose to play from the city end on an overcast day. With a strong southerly breeze behind the visitors, Smith kicked off.

The Bay opened in rambunctious style: four minutes into the game, off the left touch, Law at No.3 won an attacking line-out 4m into NPEC territory and mighty tighthead prop Jarryd Broughton made a 20m charge downfield. Referee Morton, who from play 1 had set a standard for tackles riding up, on this occasion penalised the Coast; Smith, 5m to the right of the posts, 15m back, kicked the goal for 3-0.

The Bay scored the first try of the match seven minutes in: NPEC debutant right-wing Shayden Stevens got back to field a box-kick from Smith 8m from the Coast’s goal-line. Former Taranaki and Manawatu representative Adrian Wyrill, the Bay No.6, intercepted Stevens’ pass to his wing-partner Tawhao Stewart, and beat second-five Te Manu Herewini to dot down in the right corner.

No conversion resulted – the Bay led 8-0.

The Bay pack played with urgency – they were dynamic from the outset. Red rake Shayde Skudder, Law’s locking partner Fletcher Scammell, Leach and No.8 Tamanui Hill all carried the ball strongly: of the backs, centre Tione Hubbard and left-wing Te Peehi Fairlie were particularly strong in contact.

Following another epic surge from Broughton – with support from Scammell – Fairlie came within a clean catch of scoring in the left corner: in the 12th minute, 30m into Coast territory on the left touch, Hill won an attacking line-out at No.4. The visitors (over eight phases) went right, left, back again before right-wing Matt Raleigh chip-kicked ahead to win a 10m dash and score inches from the dead-ball line.

Raleigh is known for winning a race down the same sideline in Week 4 of the 2020 Heartland Championship: 30m from his own goal-line, he hared downfield, overran the ball and bicycle-kicked the ball over his own head at the 22, caught the ball, and scored under the bar.

Raleigh played that well for 80 minutes on Saturday, keeping the ball in play and himself in the field of play under pressure from hard NPEC tacklers.

Minus a conversion, Poverty Bay led 13-0.

Pride in the Sky Blue jersey has never risen or fallen on the score midway through a half: Coast lock Manaia Nyman was as good at the tail of the line-out as Allen was in the middle, and one of his classic takes at No.5 gave the Kaupoi a crack at the Bay from 8m out. Off the left touch, NPEC probed the scarlets’ defence over six phases.

The Coast has big men who can truck the ball up: there is no shortage of muscle, or of capable finishers. On Saturday, the visiting team simply set a high tempo which the hosts fought throughout to match.

Morton issued a yellow card to Counsell for off-side play at the 32 minute-mark – shortly thereafter, the pace of the game quickened again: Bay second-five Taine Aupouri made a big bust, a 40m run, kick ahead for Raleigh. Stevens scrambled back in cover, made a heroic save on the goal-line, and within four phases of play right-to-left, NPEC had gotten to halfway and then to the right touch.

The Sky Blues had come to life but even on the cusp of half-time, the Bay maintained their concentration. From a line-out 11m from the left corner at the Coast’s end, Law won the ball at five and the visitors attacked again: Aupouri would not let this last opportunity slip and from the ensuing ruck in front of the posts, Hubbard – now at halfback for Counsell – went right and fullback Moses Christie scored in the corner.

With that, Poverty Bay led 18-0 at the break.

Two minutes after the resumption, they were at it again: from an attacking 5m scrum, 7m off the left touch, the immensely powerful reserve No.8 Jess Kapene came openside to score. Smith converted the Bay’s fourth try for 25-0.

Despite the score, two Kaupoi were the equal of any man on the park: the work-rate and effectiveness of flankers Richie Green and Willie Bolingford was a positive for NPEC. Their speed to the loose ball and technique at the breakdown was consistently good, as was Green’s play at the line-out.

In the 58th minute, reserve first-five Ricardo Patricio replaced Smith: 62 minutes in, after the Bay won an attacking scrum set 14m from the Sky Blue goal-line centrefield, the ball was sent right. When Ra Broughton swung it back left, Patricio cut between the Sky Blues’ front-row reserves, hooker Jody Tuhaka and loosehead prop Hirini Delamere, to score under the cross-bar. One of four scarlet debutants (Leach, Christie, reserve second-five Solomoni Rasari were the others) at the weekend, the 20 year-old converted his own try, his first first-class try, for 32-0.

In the 64th minute, from the right touch 6m into NPEC’s half, the quick-thinking Raleigh threw the ball in quickly. Patricio ran from halfway to the 22, the Bay went right and Hubbard cut reserve loosehead prop Tulsa Kaui out to find Christie. For the second time in 60 seconds, Christie had a chance to score in the corner: momentum got him home in the corner, despite a magnificent effort from Nyman in defence.

With Patricio’s conversion, the score was 39-0.

The Coast, digging deep in the 67th minute, struck gold from an attacking 5m scrum set 13m off the right touch. Reserve halfback Bless Perese-Elliott, in for the Kaupoi vice-captain Hamuera Moana, swung the ball left to Herewini, who picked Waenga up in front of the posts. Perese-Elliott pushed left again and reserve first-five Ngarangi Haerewa gave a slick last pass to Stevens for the hosts’ first points and the Sky Blues’ first try of the day.

The Coast’s opening try in 2022 owed everything to a good scrum-platform, good service from the young halfback, men running straight, well-timed passes. Waenga and Haerewa did well, and Stevens – a good youngster – should be proud to have done what Poverty Bay’s Christie did in his double and Patricio did at point-blank range: seize the day.

In the 71st minute, the Bay scored the second to last try of a match that the 900 odd in attendance no doubt appreciated for its special moments: from a 5m attacking scrum set 8m to the right of the posts, Ra Broughton ducked away and two men went at Kapene as he came off the back of the scrum. Kapene found reserve blindside flanker Keanu Taumata of OBM on the inside hit to score.

It was thinking man’s rugby from the Bay, who with Patricio’s boot took a 46-7 lead.

The Coast – whatever a given result – often have the last say at Ruatoria, and Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2022 was to be no exception. The Bay’s reserve hooker Rikki Terekia had a tremendous game, as did their reserve tighthead prop James Higgins; when the Bay lost Terekia, they were reduced once more to 14 men at their own end against a Coast team that had found new urgency and resolve.

The Hosea Gear-coached Kaupoi scored on full-time.

Morton awarded the Coast a penalty 10m from Poverty Bay’s posts centrefield: Perese-Elliott chose to tap-kick, went left and twice NPEC probed for a hole – there was none – and so they went again to the right – twice. Finally Herewini cut back against the tide, spinning away from three would-be tacklers. He was deserving of the ninth try of the match, which was unconverted. Poverty Bay had won the Sayers Cup on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee 46-12.

Saturday’s game was high-quality, pre-representative season rugby and a terrific game to watch. Error-free rugby is a pipe dream but the pace and skills on display so early in the year, surprised many present.

If the Coast were surprised by the quickness and continuity of their opponents, it is possible that it surprised the visitors themselves: pre-season games can be stop-start, bumbling, error-ridden affairs. This was nothing like that. NPEC would no doubt prefer to have found touch with every line-kick they took, but the tries they scored were not of the haphazard or freak bounce variety.

The Sky Blues’ tries were well-constructed and a tribute to persistence. Down 39-0 after 67 minutes and with losing the famous PJ Sayers Cup then a reality, rather than give up they dig in. They scored a try, conceded another and then grabbed the last one.

Coast fullback BJ Sidney looked dangerous with every touch yet while Jarryd Broughton and Taine Aupouri both made more than one memorable run, surely the best was made by Higgins in the 63rd minute of play. He caught the ball 15m from halfway after Patricio’s try, and made 23m downfield – through five Kaupoi – before being brought down.

Herewini was a deserving MVP for the home team, as was ? ? for the victorious Bay side.

Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay will play Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast here in Week 4 of the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship at 2.30pm on Saturday, September 10.


Name TR CON PEN DG Cards
1532 Dan Law (c)
6 1
7 Yellow Card
9 Yellow Card
10 1 1
14 1
15 2


Name TR CON PEN DG Cards
1497 Rikki Terekia Shayde Skudder
Yellow Card
1541 Tulsa Kaui Nehe Papuni
1537 James Higgins Jarryd Broughton
1495 Jesse Kapene Tamanui Hill
1534 Keanu Taumata Adrian Wyrill
1524 Rawiri Sonny Boy 'Ra' Broughton Mario Counsell
1545 Ricardo Patricio Kelvin Muir Smith
1 3
1546 Solomoni Rasari Taine Aupouri