League: Usual role for do or die Pikiao

By Greg Taipari


Sudden death rugby league is nothing new to Pikiao Warriors coach Selwyn Rikiti.

In fact, the wily old coach says his team has been playing it for the last three or four weeks.

With the Waicoa Bay premier club competition into week seven, the Warriors, Taupo Phoenix, Otumoetai Eels and Hukanui all find themselves in sudden death games.

Rikiti, whose team list looks more like a casualty list, says his team has struggled to live up to its potential in the past few weeks. As many as eight regular premier players are currently out with injury, causing Rikiti to look to reserve grade to help cover the shortfall.

Pikiao have lost the last three games on the trot and now the Rotorua side find themselves in a do-or-die battle with the Phoenix at Puketawhero Park tomorrow.

"Its been sudden death for us for the last three or four weeks. I get to training and there are only seven players available to train. Last week we had to use eight reserve grade players," Rikiti said.

"It's hard for [the reserve grade players] and hard for the regulars. It's a big step up for them and when they do something wrong, the regular guys have to work twice as hard."

Despite Pikiao finding themselves in a similar situation this week, Rikiti said he was confident the team could still make the semifinals and eventually the finals on August 11.

"The only saving grace for us is having home advantage. If we can get our home crowd behind us it will make a huge difference."

But Rikiti said his team will have to lift their performance.

"We are way below par right now and I know Taupo are a strong side. They are a young Pacific side. They are a fit, rangy side and I have a lot of respect for that side," Rikiti said.

"They like to move the ball from side to side and have plenty of speed out wide. But I think we have a good game plan for them. It's all about pride for us. If we go out there and play to our plan we can beat them."

With key players such as fullback Connor Hohepa (neck), halfback Bully Tahuriorangi (hamstring) and Ivor Thomas (chest) out with injury, Rikiti has had to turn to his captain Jason Kameta and five-eight Pirikawana Taiatini to take more of the workload.

"Jason is an old work horse you know will work non-stop and Papa [Taiatini] has really stepped up since Bully has been injured."

In the other sudden death match of the round, the Eels host Hukanui at Mitchell Park while Hamilton City Tigers host Pacific Sharks at Resthills and Ngaruawahia Panthers are at home to Taniwharau at Davies Park. The winners of these two matches get a rest next week while the losers play the winners of the sudden death games next weekend.

Draw: Hamilton City Tigers v Pacific Sharks, Resthills, 2.30pm; Ngaruawahia Panthers v Taniwharau, Davies Park, 3pm.

Sudden Death: Pikiao Warriors v Taupo Phoenix, Puketawhero Park, 2.30pm; Otumoetai Eels v Hukanui, Mitchell Park, 2.30pm.

Points table: Hamilton City Tigers 26, Ngaruawahia 26, Taniwharau 24, Otumoetai 23, Pikiao 22, Pacific 21, Taupo 12, Hukanui 8.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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