Firstly the Hikurangi Stags 42 – 8 thumping of the Portland Panthers, will sound alarm bells for the top of the table. It was 2nd v 3rd on the table, Portland’s home game, everyone expected a much closer result than that. The Stags have an expectation to be at the top of the table having been 2015’s quiet achievers. However, we are starting to see them make a run for the finish line with two back to back emphatic wins. Last week saw them 50 – 26 winners over the Northern Wairoa Bulls and this week’s demolition of the Panthers hints at bigger things to come. Player/Coach Joe Rau, is pleased with his sides progress. “We’re doing most things right at the moment. In the weekend we knew we had to shut down the Panthers big forward pack and we did that. The other thing which I’m really happy about is our discipline to the game plan, we’re playing out our sets and keeping good shape….. the weekend’s game against the Panthers was a good team performance, but I have to give wraps to my brother Steve for laying the foundation up front, on the back of that Caleb Aekins form at Standoff is outstanding and creating untold opportunities out wide.”
Aekins has recently been named to trial for the NZRL 18s jersey in July, with his form he should be travelling to Rotorua with some confidence.
The other team that fired a warning shot to the top of the table, were the Muriwhenua Falcons who defeated Top of the Table Moerewa Tigers 30 – 16, which sees the Falcons jump Portland, into 3rd Place on the table. Falcons Coach, Vince Rudolph, was understandable happy with his team’s result. “We’re injury free and have competition for places. The boys attitude at the moment is changing and we are seeing a commitment to the team and the game plan. The weekend’s game was a tough, wet weather affair, Moerewa were leading at half time, but our forward pack stood up.” Although Rudolph heralded a good team performance he noted a Man of the Match Performance from second row Ricky Toby. Toby has returned to the Falcons after a two year absence where he was playing NSW Country Football.
In other matches, Takahiwai recorded their first win in 5 matches, disposing of the Horahora Broncos 58 – 0. While the Hokianga Pioneers won their second close match in as many weeks, defeating the Northern Wairoa Bulls 36 – 30. After the weekend’s result, Moerewa remain in 1st by points differential to Hikurangi with both teams on 20 points. Muriwhenua sit in 3rd place with Portland in 4th both on 16 points. Takahiwai and Hokianga are in 5th and 6th on 15 points with Otangarei in 7th on 14 points. With 5 rounds remaining the Bulls still have a chance of making the playoffs from 8th place and 10 points but they will need to have a magical run to make this a reality. Their run home sees them with a Bye, Horahora, Muriwhenua at home, Moerewa away and Takahiwai away.
Pawarenga sit on top of the table after their 50 – 10 defeat of the Moerewa Tigers. They have a game in hand over second placed Otaua. Takahiwai did wonders for their playoff hopes by defeating Horahora 56 – 14, while Hikurangi shocked all with a 52 – 4 thumping of Marist.