Brad Turei celebrated his return to representative rugby with two tries for Poverty Bay in their 28-12 win against a raw but spirited Ngati Porou East Coast at Ruatoria’s Whakarua Park on Saturday.
“I played for the Bay a couple of seasons ago when Grainger (Heikell) and Trevor (Crosby) were the coaches before I went to Australia last season,” said the 25-year-old first five-eighth, who scored his side’s first and last tries to help the Bay retain the Sayers Cup.
“I went to Perth and Darwin to work in the mines but missed my family (partner Vianney Douglas and eight-year-old daughter Roimata) too much.
“When I came back the goal was to play well for YMP and make the Bay’s Heartland Championship squad.
“I’m not saying I will — there’s still a few pre-season games to play before Mutu (Ngarimu, Bay coach) picks his squad — but I’ve been happy with my club form and it was good to score a couple of tries.”
Turei was one of the Bay’s stand-out players in a game that had periods of brilliance mixed with helter-skelter rugby and scrappy passages.
Second five Moss Doran, No.8 Sione Ngatu, halfback Sam Parkes and skipper and lock Murray Hewson also put their hands up for Heartland places.
Doran, in particular, caused the Coast problems with his strong running game and huge clearing kicks. He capped a powerful game with three penalties and two conversions.
Ngatu, after a slow start which saw the Bay trailing 12-3, showed his class and experience as the Bay forwards knuckled down to some hard graft. He scored a second-half try following a lineout when the Bay forwards drove across the line from 10 metres out.
Parkes made a big impact when he replaced debutant Brian Whaitiri-White, who went off with a shoulder injury after 18 minutes.
“It was good to get on and it’s always good to beat your mates,” said Parkes, a member of the Sky Blues’ 2012 Heartland Championship Meads Cup-winning team. “The other thing that was pleasing was being able to shut out a game, something we weren’t able to do last year.”
Parkes’ performance was also a testimony to his courage after an operation this year left him without “shock absorbers” in his left knee.
“There’s a technical term for it but having no shock absorbers is the best way to describe it,” said Parkes, who returned to club rugby for Ngatapa two weeks ago. “There’s some jarring when I make contact with the ground but it’s there for life, so I have to put up with it.”
Hewson, playing his 64th game but first as run-on skipper, was rapt with the win.
“We took a while to get into the game but that was also due to the way the Coast started,” he said. “They played with a lot of passion, which we always knew they would. There’s still a lot of work to be done before the Heartland Championship but we grew into the game, and it was a huge honour for me to lead a young side who I believe have potential.”
The Bay opened the scoring with a Doran penalty after three minutes but were rocked seven minutes later when the Coast, inspired by captain Pakanui Webb (lock) and rampaging No.8 Tanetoa Parata, responded with two scintillating tries.
New cap and centre Ara Hailey bagged the first following a charge-down 35 metres out from the line. Halfback Charlie Harrson, only eight games away from chalking up 100 appearances for the Coast, set the backline in motion before Hailey finished in style. Right winger Kris Palmer converted.
Three minutes later the lead was 12-3 after Palmer scored in the corner. Parata made the initial burst up the middle and when awarded a penalty he took a quick tap before veering right and charging another 20 metres. A superb offload to Hailey had the Bay in trouble and when Palmer received the ball he scorched down the touchline.
It was all the Coast at this stage but the Bay fought back through superior fitness and solid forward play.
“The forwards strung a few good phases together to get us close to the line and when I saw the gap, I went for it,” Turei said.
Doran’s conversion closed the gap to two points, then added a penalty to put the Bay ahead 13-12 at halftime.
The Coast continued to play “club rugby” in the second 40. Their discipline let them while the Bay opted for a more structured approach with the forwards laying the platform.
Doran’s third penalty in the 48th minute and Ngatu’s try five minutes later put the Bay in control. But it needed a magnificent chase-and-tackle from Bay openside flanker Ben Payne to stop the Coast getting back into the match.
With four minutes remaining Coast fullback and their liveliest attacker Pomana Samupo intercepted the ball just outside his 22. The crowd were on their feet willing him on and as he crossed the halfway line it was clear that two of the three chasing Bay players were not going to catch him. The third was Payne, one of the fittest players in the Bay club competition, whose brilliant tackle forced Samupo to lose the ball forward.
Turei sealed the win with a try in the closing stages.