Ruapehu’s rousing return to Senior rugby

(Above : After an absence of two years, Ruapehu once again has a team in the WRFU Senior competition. Photo by Merrilyn George)

By Jared Smith

The journey has come full circle for the returning Ruapehu Senior team and their co-coach Mark Green in WRFU rugby.

Guiding the young Senior team of the mid-2010’s who finally ended Kelso Hunterville’s six-year championship reign, it saddened Green that after he moved up to helping manage McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu in the Premier competition, the club went through a struggle for numbers, with the Seniors becoming defunct for the 2019 season.

An attempt to bring back a second team to the club in 2020 was looking promising until Covid-19 reared its ugly head, with the delay for sports and job opportunities in Taupo taking away enough players so the squad stayed in recess.

However, just a few weeks before kickoff in 2021 and young players started coming out of woodwork to pull on the jersey again, or for the first time, and the proud club is finally back to full strength, with Green joining Willie McDonnell in guiding the new breed.

“The option was there for me to drop down. Hopefully we can get ourselves up and running again, like we used to have it,” said Green.

“We’ve got a lot of greenhorns in there, but got a mixture with some old heads – which we need.

“A few of them haven’t played since college.

“We’ll just use this as a building block.

“We haven’t got too much to offer the Prems this year, but hopefully we’ll keep them playing rugby and at Ruapehu.

“Once you lose your team, it’s hard to get it back.”

Assisting the newcomers are players with both Premier and representative experience like prop Mac James Edmonds, halfback Andre McDonnell, and first-five Jonty Curtis.

Andre McDonnell facing Hunterville in the 2014 Senior final


It was a tough baptism with three straight away games, as Ruapehu were well beaten in their re-debut by Utiku Old Boys 43-7 at Memorial Park, but showed signs of improvement in a 33-21 loss to Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau at the Country Club.

Then at Marton Park last Saturday, the young men delivered as they came from 13-0 down to Speirs Food Marton to close within a point with tries by fullback Shairone Wood and centre Rangi McLeod.

While Marton kicked another penalty to put themselves outside kicking range at 16-12, Ruapehu kept the pressure on and a penalty try took them to an inaugural 19-16 win.

It will be a tougher prospect this Saturday at home when the other Rangitikei team in Harvey Round Motors Ratana brings their undefeated record and the Stihl Shop Whanganui Challenge Shield to Rochfort Park.

“The positive was we got youth on our side,” said Green.

“If we can improve every week, that’s the big thing for us. If wins come around, that’s the bonus for us.”

The Senior draw is

May 8, 1pm kickoffs (times subject to change): Buffalos vs Celtic, Spriggens Park; Kaierau vs Counties, Country Club; Border vs Pirates, Dallison Park; Marton vs Taihape, Marton Park; Hunterville vs Utiku, Hunterville; Ruapehu vs Ratana, Rochfort Park.