Cruden performs well in second full All Blacks game

The All Blacks' test match in Rome was only the second full game for Manawatu man Aaron Cruden in the black jersey this season.

After his full-on season with the Chiefs, he has been on light rations and despite that, acquitted himself pretty well.

His other 80-minute match before yesterday was against Argentina at Dunedin way back on September 15 when Daniel Carter was injured.

Neither he nor our Aaron Smith received a huge amount of quality ball in Foro Italico yesterday because the All Black forwards were short of numbers at the breakdowns. Smith now has his left knee mysteriously taped up.

■ For the first time, Table Tennis Manawatu can boast having five players in New Zealand squads.

Only Auckland and Canterbury have more. Manawatu have Matt Ball in the men's, Natalie Paterson ranked third in the women's, Nathan Watson and Dean Lochhead in the under-18 boys and Jae Lee in the under-15 cadet squad.

Manawatu will again host the North Island championships in May.

■ Manawatu have a chance of picking up three gongs at the New Zealand Rugby Awards on December 14.

Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) has a chance in the player of the year, Junior Tomasi Cama, as the world sevens player of the year, must be the favourite in the sevens category, and New Zealand under-20 centre Jason Emery is a prospect in the age-grade player of the year.

Oh, there's also Dave Rennie, whose last province was Manawatu, as coach of the year.

■ Two young up-and-coming athletes had their mountainbikes stolen from their Hokowhitu home on Wednesday along with dad's bike and their little brother's BMX bike.

Anyone who knows their whereabouts can contact the Manawatu Standard or drop the bikes off so they can be collected. There might be someone out there with a conscience.

■ Golf clubs have to be innovative in these tight financial times and the Palmerston North Golf Club is on the move.

They have established a sprig bar in a converted storeroom. Players who come off the course can wander in for a nibble or a drink without having to change out of their playing clobber and shoes. It is proving popular and is already turning a profit. Something other clubs might adopt.

■ Club cricket might have been washed out on Saturday but cricket is still having a better strike rate than last season's.

The first weekend was also rained out last month but by this time last year there had been five consecutive washouts.

■ Manawatu master golfer Martin Townend not only won the AMP tournament at Hokowhitu on Friday, it was his third win in the event in about 10 years.

The 16 handicapper scored a trip for two to the AMP finals at Kelvin Heights, Queenstown.

His other two trips were to Clearwater in Christchurch and to Titirangi in Auckland, where he played two of the holes with then US Open champion Michael Campbell.

Townend is the chap who has the unenviable task of brokering talks between the three clubs in southern Rangitikei about a possible merger. We hear he was at the Rangitikei Golf Club on Saturday.

Manawatu Standard