Metro Colts motivated by missed cup

By Jared Smith

Unfinished business continues to drive the St Johns Whanganui Metro side as they sit on top of the Manawatu Colts table after three games of what will be a proper competition in 2021.

The Covid-19 affected 2020 season meant only one round of matches between six teams was possible, followed by semifinals then a Gordon Brown Memorial Cup final where Metro could not overcome their rivals the Feilding Yellows, losing 44-14.

Back to two rounds between seven teams this year, allowing for full campaign of 12 matches plus playoffs, Metro were gutted to lose 16-15 to the Yellows in the season opener on April 10.

“Three tries to two, but they kicked [the goals],” said coach Mark Cosford.

“I thought we’d finally kicked the monkey off the back.

“With that loss in the final, I think we got good return bunch who want to go one step further.”

Since that time, however, the Yellows have had two draws with Old Boys Marist (12-12) and Freyberg Old Boys (15-15), whereas Metro have rebounded with impressive wins over Feilding Old Boys-Oroua (27-10) and last Saturday against Dannevirke SC (38-10).

Against Dannevirke at the Kaierau Country Club, winger Joey Devine scored two tries and added three conversions, as he will share the kicking duties with 2019 Heartland Hurricanes player Jack O’Leary.

Tipene Reweti, an outstanding touch and league player, also scored a double.

“There’s plenty to improve upon but they’re heading in the right direction,” said Cosford.

The team will miss their foundation halfback Chris Ferguson this season, while winger Matthew Murphy has linked up with Kaierau and got a run off the bench in the Premier game on Saturday.

However, promising newcomers include former Cullinane openside flanker Neo Tichbon, and prop Keightley Watson – the multiple time international judo champion, who was named International Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the 2019 Whanganui Sports Awards.

“That’s a bonus having him,” said Cosford.

There has been a reset in the Metro Women’s team for their sophomore season, which will be quite short.

Despite the postponing of Rugby World Cup 2021 to next year, due to Covid-19 concerns, the scheduling of the women’s game in New Zealand remains the same – so the MRU is only playing one round of matches plus playoffs for their five team club grade.

“We have to win our next two games, otherwise we won’t make that [semifinal],” said Metro coach Tama Te Patu.

Metro suffered heavy losses in their opening two matches, beaten 83-0 by defending champions Kia Toa RFC, then 65-10 on Saturday by Feilding Old Boys-Oroua.

“New girls all the time – last time we had three girls I’ve never met before, and had to play them – not an ideal thing.

“We’ll hang in there and see how things go. The players we are playing [against] are experienced players.”

Of Metro’s Manawatu Cyclones squad members from 2020, former Black Fern Sosoli Talawadua is just focusing on helping coach the squad, while Lavenia Nauga-Grey is wearing a moon boot – one of three injuries to senior players.

“The young girls we have here are keen, but once again we’re starting from scratch,” said Te Patu.

Post MRU season, Metro will see if they can organise exhibition games with clubs from other regions as they also wrap up.

There will be a double header of Metro vs Massey University RFC games at Cooks Gardens on Saturday afternoon, with the Women’s game at 12.45pm, followed by the Colts at 2.15pm.