When Matenga Baker returned recently from his first stint playing in Spain, he was happy to sort out work and a place to stay.
But when College Old Boys coach John Cruden got wind of his return, the former Turbos midfield back was summoned.
On Saturday, Baker played his fourth game of the season for COB in their 31-13 defeat of Varsity, helping get the ball wide soon after halftime to quick wing Willie Paia'aua for COB's game-changing first try.
Baker went to Spain after the university year to successfully help stop Santboiana being relegated.
Now he's back to help COB nail the Hankins Shield. As Baker said, he has won "only two".
"We've got young guys here which is a really good core for COB."
He doesn't like them being tagged favourites: "I hate it how we get stuck with that because there's always four or five teams who could come through."
Still to finish his sport-and-exercise degree majoring in education, he fancies primary school teaching.
On Saturday, COB went looking for work after an even first half in which they had Mike Baker binned for alleged stomping and Varsity had more ball but either grubbered it away on attack or tried to use big centre Taylor Hakaraia to punch through. While Varsity, mostly Tom Hughes, stole a bundle of COB lineouts, they were getting the heave ho in the scrums.
The game changed after halftime and COB, in full flight in the second half, hardly had to earn try No 2 when the Varsity halfback sent a feral pass under his own posts. Straight after Varsity scored their sole try, COB fullback Nick Harding got one out wide and Varsity heads dropped. Varsity fired too many woolly passes but had fine workhorses in Rob Foreman, Nick Grogan, Cormac Chalmers and Jacob Gopperth.
For COB, Jeremy McKenzie in the scrums, lock Johnny Galloway and Brice Henderson were prominent.
COB 31 (Willie Paia'aua 2, Nick Harding, tries; Otere Black 4 pen, 2 con) Varsity 13 (Owen Karati try; Clayton Stewart con, 2 pen) HT 6-all.
OB-Marist 50 FOB-Oroua 26
OBM's first half was their best 40 minutes in two years, running in five tries at Kimbolton in a clinical display to have a comfy eight-point buffer on Feilding on the table.
The likes of Troy Smith and Jason Temara in midfield carved up, the forwards delivering nice ball and fullback Michael Gattsche also contributed. Set play was solid from both teams.
Coach Lee Waller gave half games to those to play on Wednesday for the Evergreens, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Isaac Gulliver and Rhys Pedersen. Playing uphill after halftime they added two more tries.
To their credit the Stags scored four tries for a bonus point, three of them in the second half when they had ample territory. They didn't go much past second-five for much of the game, had good one-off runners and were popping offloads in close. Their best were third-string halfback Hepa Payne, lock-No 8 Sean Rankin and second-five Jamie Perigo.
OB-Marist 50 (Luke Hall 2, Sam Bergerson, Bain Champion, Ben Crozier, Troy Smith, Michael Gattsche tries; Champion 5 con; Jason Temara con, pen), FOB-Oroua 26 (Alofa Mapuilesua, Sam Mapuilesua, Jamie Perigo, Adam Mabey, tries; Mabey 3 con) HT 35-7. Kia Toa 30 Feilding 25
Kias bounced into second place this season on a superior second-half display and by depriving Feilding of the ball. Kias could have kicked a last-minute penalty to deprive Yellows of a bonus point, but went for the corner lineout instead.
Yellows should have had a chance with Kias missing their midfield of Tevita Taufu'i and Nathan Tudreu (halfback Atutahi Henare was at No 12) and Newton Tudreu on for only half a game. Their best were hooker Bryn Templeman, first-five Jade Te Rure and lock Fraser Stone while lock Inia Rasovo was stretchered off with a knee injury.
In an even forwards battle, Kias scored after a minute of play but Feilding capitalised on their errors to score two quick tries. Another possible game-changer to Feilding's Brad Carr was disallowed for a double movement.
Feilding led 24-23 on the hour mark until the Kias backs like Jade Te Rure and Jordan Bunce came into their own, held the ball and got ahead 30-25 with 12 to play. Feilding were then pinned too far out. They need to keep winning and have results go their way. Sione Nisa, lock Cam Rutherford and No 8 Hayden Stratford were Feilding's best.
Kia Toa 30 (Maleli Sau, Jordan Bunce, Ryan Kelleher tries; Jade Te Rure 3 con, 3 pen) Feilding 25 (Ben Wyness, Brad Carr, Matt Dalley, tries; Wyness 2 con, 2 pen) HT 22-17. Linton Army 32 Te Kawau 24
Linton had their best start to a game all season when they scored three tries in the first half, all from counter-attacks, Hamiora Thomas and Stu Vanderberg running well and Jackson Tagavaitau pouring through from centre with TK missing Osea Rokubu.
Ten minutes after halftime they had their fourth try to lead 27-7 and the game looked safe. Then prop Hakarangi Tichborne was binned and in that time Te Kawau ran in three tries and it was game on. TK started to win ball and began making breaks up the middle and by 70 minutes it was 27-24.
Te Kawau hammered away for a tight final 10 minutes only for Linton, on the back of two penalties, to score on the last play of the game through Lloyd Carter, back after six months in Sinai. Te Kawau's standout men were flanker Doug Horrocks, halfback Toby Morland, first-five Ethan Woodmass and lock Liam Mitchell.
Linton scored five tries to four for only their third win of the season.
Linton Army 32 (Jackson Tagavaitau, Matthew Cressy, Stu Vandenberg, Hakarangi Tichborne, Lloyd Carter, tries; Ben James 2 con, pen) Te Kawau 24 (Doug Horrocks 2, Ethan Woodmass, Liam Mitchell, tries; Woodmass 2 con) HT 20-7.
ALL THE DETAILS
CENTENNIAL SHIELD TABLE P W D L F A Pts College OB 13 12 0 1 630 183 60 Kia Toa 14 11 0 3 500 317 55 Varsity 14 10 0 4 477 276 50 OB-Marist 13 10 0 3 392 242 48 Feilding 13 7 0 6 372 246 40 Te Kawau 13 3 0 10 260 414 18 Linton Army 13 3 0 10 219 465 18 FOB-Oroua 14 2 0 12 259 560 13 Freyberg 13 2 0 11 155 561 12 BEST AND FAIREST FOB-OROUA v OB-MARIST 3 Troy Smith (OBM) 2nd5 2 Jason Temara (OBM) centre 1 Hepa Payne (FOBO) halfback FEILDING v KIA TOA 3 Bryn Templeman (Kia) hooker 2 Sione Nisa (Feilding) 2nd5 1 Jade Te Rure (Kia Toa) 1st5 LINTON ARMY v TE KAWAU 3 Jackson Tagavaitau (Linton) centre 2 Doug Horrocks (TK) flanker 1 Alex Morrissey (Linton) 2nd5 VARSITY v COLLEGE OB 3 Willie Paia'aua (COB) wing 2 Nick Grogan (Varsity) prop 1 Brice Henderson (COB) No 8 NEXT SATURDAY'S GAMES Freyberg v Varsity, Colquhoun Park; Old Boys-Marist v Kia Toa, Arena Manawatu; College OB v Linton Army, Arena Manawatu; Te Kawau v Feilding, Rongotea; FOB-Oroua bye. --------------------
- Manawatu Standard
Will Aaron Cruden's omission hurt or help the All Blacks?Related story: Senior All Blacks 'pretty disappointed' in Cruden