Coach stoked at tournament wins
An extremely limited build-up had minimal effect on the Taranaki Maori side as they left the Central Region Te Tini a Maui tournament undefeated at the weekend.
After several seasons on the sidelines, Taranaki were seeded in the second division of the tournament at Palmerston North.
Despite only having one serious training run together, Taranaki Maori managed to put two reasonably strong performances together - beating Horowhenua 20-17 and Wairarapa Bush 17-12.
The victories mean Taranaki Maori will be promoted to the top flight at next season's tournament and face Wellington and Manawatu.
"The weekend was all about getting up to the premier division for us," Taranaki Maori coach Toka Kevin Walden said.
"We had a lot of young players in there, so it was pretty tough going given that inexperience, but our experienced guys made a big difference."
Walden singled out Taranaki national provincial championship squad members Timo Tutavaha and Daniel Brooks, as well as former Wanganui reps Jon Smyth and Mark Davis as four of the best performers, along with Clifton halfback Hamuera Baker.
"There was some really exciting talent playing. We broke the line a lot but we just couldn't finish things off."
Against Horowhenua, Taranaki Maori held a comfortable 17-5 lead going into halftime following tries to Matt Waaka, Sean Wainui and Te Waiti Mareikura, before their opposition levelled things up after Taranaki Maori made several changes. It then took a late Davis penalty to win the match.
Things went differently in the second game, with Taranaki Maori forced to come from behind against Wairarapa Bush, with Brooks scoring two tries and Wainui one. The pair, along with Mathew Tupa, Jesse Parete, Baker, Davis, Smyth, Mareikura and Jerem Wichman were later named in the Central Region Te Tini a Maui team, which will travel south to Christchurch to face South Island Maori.
Walden, who will coach the Central Region side, was confident Taranaki Maori could continue to put out a representative side.
"There is really good morale there and it was about setting a base and building on it. There are some good opportunities available to the young ones because this does give them a little bit more exposure."