One of the scores of Manawatu Turbo supporters who turned up in spectacular numbers, despite the form of their side, at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday carried a Tui sign which branded: "Taranaki Rugby, 125 years of home grown players."
The traditional Tui response summed up the feelings of the Manawatu.
Memories are short.
It was not that many years ago when Manawatu were in a combined outfit - or misfit, please your self - with Hawke's Bay called the Vikings. It included the likes of Dion Waller, Bull Allen, Christian Cullen, Stephen Bachop, Chresten Davis - all All Blacks, and not one of them was from Manawatu.
Imported players have long been a part of the game. And while it can be understood some frustrations from down the line with Taranaki poaching a couple of players at the end of last year, Taranaki would still be well on the negative side when it comes to movements between the two provinces.
It just so happens now that Universities do not have the same pulling power with promising players as they used to.
And let's not forget that Manawatu themselves had a Taranaki man in its ranks, Callum Gibbins who is part of the Marshall dynasty from out Inglewood way.
But perhaps the most powerful derailing of the Manawatu slogan was the fact that three of the four Taranaki tries were scored by home grown boys. Scott Ireland did well to get across for the first five-pointer, Jayden Hayward continued his rise, while Beauden Barrett overcame a missed penalty to produce a try that has Super 15 coaches even more eager to get him on side.
At the start of the season it was my belief that the decision to import players this year would be worthwhile should a top seven position be secured.
That has now happened and full credit to Mark Robinson and co for the courage of their convictions. The amber and blacks are now in bonus territory.
Yes, a semifinal would be great, but Wellington this week will be a powerful lineup. The loss of Andre Taylor will cause further problems, a lack of depth on the wings finally now coming home to hurt.
The 2010 side now have the opportunity to carve a real piece of Taranaki history. Captain Clarke eluded to that desire post the Canterbury victory. How big is the appetite?
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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