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Superclash has not lost lustre for Taihape and Border

By Jared Smith

Byford’s Readimix Taihape coach Tom Wells takes one week off and look what happens in Tasman Tanning Premier rugby.

Taihape were very interested spectators to the events of last Friday and Saturday with two significant upsets, meaning the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield holders find themselves the only unbeaten side remaining as traditional rivals Waverley Harvesting Border make the long trek to Memorial Park.

Having fought out three classic grand finals and a host of tough round robin games in the past seven years, the Taihape vs Border clash is usually a matchup of undefeated foes in the first round.

15 Premier Rugby Final. Taihape vs Border.

But Wells is cagey enough not to feel any less intensity despite Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri doing the one thing his side hasn’t – beating Border on their own home soil – 14-0 last Friday night.

“Very interesting. But I don’t take anything too much from the Border/Ngamatapouri result – they [Border] were missing half their team.

“I said Ngamatapouri were going to tip some teams up. It could happen to anyone.

“You take Lindsay [Horrocks] and Chock [Craig Clare] out of any team, and they’re the best club players in Whanganui in the last ten years.”

Wells agrees the rivalry is still there, but being the first round there are other factors to consider.

“It’s more important to win games with such a small comp.

“There’s no doubt it will be a well contested game.”

Aside from Covid-19 making a couple of players unavailable, Taihape should be near-as to full strength after their bye, having light-hearted training last week before knuckling down ahead of Saturday.

Tyler Rogers-Holden, who missed the trip to Ngamatapouri, should be back to join an experienced backline with Jaye Flaws, Cyrus Paringatai, and the Whale brothers – Luke and Dane.

While Border tried to keep the ball in the scrum against Ngamatapouri, due to not having their usual playmakers, Taihape would be more than happy to stay in the engine room – fielding at least six forwards with Heartland Championship experience, thanks to the influx of former Ruapehu Premier players.

“It would be nice if you had that, but we don’t have that luxury,” said Border coach Cole Baldwin, who put himself of reserve bench standby for his depleted team last Friday.

“Taihape’s a tough side anyway, got a couple of others helping out now.

“It’s still a pretty tough week, we can’t worry about what we haven’t got.

“We’ll get through the big task at hand on Saturday, then look to regroup [over bye week] for the second round.”

Injury and unavailability have robbed Border of several star players, although the return of Clare will certainly bolster them as his steady hands and boot could have possibly seen the side hold back Ngamatapouri, who did not score their opening points until the 55th minute.

Anaru Haerewa should also be available to strengthen the backline, while Harry Symes has been in discussions with his TRU club about when they will need him to return for their campaign.

But it’s not like Border aren’t unearthing some prodigious youth talent who have been stepping up to fill the gaps.

Tyrone Albert originally covered for Horrocks in a couple of matches last season and against Ngamatapouri had to fill Clare’s giant shoes.

The likes of lock Logan Mitchell and especially loose forward Tobias Stark contested everything in the pack.

“Todd [Cowan] and I were quite impressed with how all our young guys went,” said Baldwin.

“Not that we have a choice, but the more they play the better they’ll get.”

Meanwhile, having been only one good pass from beating Taihape and then claiming the South Taranaki derby for the first time in Premier, Ngamatapouri will bring their confidence to the Country Club to face a hurting Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau, who watched the Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist players dance the night away after their big win last Saturday.

The draw is

Premier (2.35pm kickoffs):

Byford’s Readimix Taihape vs Waverley Harvesting Border

Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau vs Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri

Bye: Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist