Shambolic, disgraceful, embarrassing ... yes all of these words apply to the Hawke's Bay Unicorns rugby league side which took on the Wellington Orcas in Hastings on Saturday.
Considering Unicorns coaches Aki Renata and George Hokianga had known about the Mid-Central inter-provincial competition opener, which was lost 86-6 at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park, for more than six weeks more was expected. Just five of the players Renata named in his team on Thursday night fronted for the match.
The Unicorns started with 11 players and within the first five minutes were down to 10 when John Kaka had to be taken to hospital with a leg injury. On one of the 16 occasions the Unicorns stood behind the goalposts waiting for an Orcas conversion attempt one player remarked the display reflected the fact the side hadn't trained together.
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When this was put to Renata after the final whistle he admitted the preparation hadn't been the best and he was hoping for at least seven players from the Hawke's Bay Spring Competition premier championship-winning Bridge Pa team but only had two.
"Taking that into account I was quite proud of the boys," Renata said.
Bridge Pa player-coach Ihaka Waerea, one of the named players who didn't front, said he was disappointed about the lack of communication.
"It needs to be a bit more professional. There's a lot of meaning behind the Unicorns jersey."
There were some positives for the hosts. Backrower James Tango impressed with his defensive workrate and finished the game with 44 tackles.
He deserved the hosts' only try which came from a dash in the dummy half role close to the line. Tango, standoff Harris Solomon and centre David Neho were the Bay's best players.
Secondrower Tahi Neera, still a student at Napier Boys' High School, did enough to suggest he could progress in the code. Nineteen-year-old Solomon, who is better known for his exploits with the MAC premier rugby team, also has potential.
Although he didn't have a lot of ball to attack with his variation was sound, he communicated well and he was gutsy on defence.
"It was a bit of fun. I hadn't played league since the national Maori tournament at Labour Weekend last year. If we had a full squad we could have done a bit of damage."
"I'm proud of all the boys who fronted today. We know we need to do a lot of work between now and the next game but I'm looking forward to it," Solomon said referring to the August 20 clash with Manawatu in Palmerston North.
Earlier this winter Solomon played for the Dubbo Rhinos Rugby Club in Australia and had played a couple of games for MAC since returning home.
Wellington Rugby League general manager and former Kiwi David Faiumu said it wasn't the strongest of Orcas side which travelled north.
"We had eight players away at a funeral and another six were unavailable with injuries."
Faiumu pointed out the Wellington premier club competition was reduced from eight teams to six this season to avoid one-sided encounters.
"It's a quality competition with our players getting semifinal standard play each week."
Hawke's Bay hasn't had a club competition this winter and Bridge Pa was the only Bay team which played in the Coast to Coast club competition earlier in the year. Saturday's result is further proof Hawke's Bay needs a quality winter club competition and one which is played on Sundays so players who wish to play union and league can continue to do so.
Orcas fulback Tony Sukroo had plenty of gas and deserved his four tries. Secondrower Junior Filo was a tough customer and lively hooker Satch Pryor did well to land eight of his 10 conversion attempts.
Wellington Orcas 86 (Tony Sukroo 4, Andrew Sukroo 2, Jordan Makatea 2, Jeremy Mckee 2, Rikki Simmonds, Johnny Skinnon, Satch Pryor, Lui Afamasaga, Jon-marc Stowers, Enoch Tanfolu tries; Pryor 8, Tony Sukroo 2, Kurt Karini-Heta cons), Hawke's Bay Unicorns 6 (James Tango try; Harris Solomon con). HT: 44-0.