Hold on a minute ... is this the same Rob Evans I know?

I asked myself this question as I read comments made by Evans, a 1999 New Zealand under-19 rugby world champion and former Magpies lock who is coaching Central in this week's 115th edition of the Hawke's Bay Primary Schools Ross Shield tournament in Napier, in a preview to the event written by a colleague last week.

"We're going up there to win it. We're going there to win all [our games] - that's our aim. And I think we are in a pretty good spot to do it, with a pretty good team," Evans said.

During his 39-match, first-class career with the Magpies which ended in 2004 Evans was never one for bold statements. Most of his talking was done through his on-field actions.
So when he made these statements one had to believe he had the ammunition to back it up. And yesterday his troops backed up their head coach's belief with what Evans described as "a hard-fought" 14-12 win against Hastings East in the feature match at Park Island.

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"They have the right attitude and they have done all the hard work and that's why I made those comments last week. The whole team stuck to their guns today and we took our opportunities against a tough East side," Evans said.

While first five-eighth Rylee Ward was judged man of the match, locks Josh Leach and Dylan Wind and No 8 Sam Bartram were also prominent for Central. Evans' son, second five-eighth Jake Evans, converted both of Central's tries which were scored by winger Clay Skedgwell and Wind. Coach Evans pointed out a highlight of the tournament for him is coming up against opposing coaches in East's Glen Varcoe, a former Magpies teammate of his, and Napier's Matt Maxwell, a former Hawke's Bay B teammate.

East manager Kelly Frewin agreed it was an entertaining battle and she praised her side's defensive effort particularly around the ruck area. Prominent Hawke's Bay age group swimmer Michael Lansdown was a workaholic at lock for East.

Flankers Tom Allen and Tyrone Chrystal also impressed in the East pack while centre Tim Slabbekoorn was the pick of the East backs.

Lock Tama Mason captured player-of-the-match honours as his Wairoa team opened its campaign with an emphatic 43-0 drubbing of Dannevirke. Delighted head coach Sid Ropitini said flanker George Manson and No 8 George Cox were also inspirational in the winning pack while Wairoa's first-half halfback-first-five-eighth combo of Brandon Carr and Kyoni Te Amo-Puki functioned well.

Dannevirke manager Bevan Ellison said his troops played well in the second half but the damage was done in the first spell when Wairoa established a 24-0 lead.

"Wairoa scored a couple of early tries which got them on a bit of a march."

Defending champions Napier drew 24-all with Hastings West in a thrilling topsy-turvy encounter.

"Yes, it was entertaining. But I'm not overly happy because West put us under a lot of pressure and we went away from how we had trained. But a draw is better than a loss and we're still in the hunt," Maxwell said.

Substitute hooker Dylan Homan and No 8 Meytel Kara had high workrates in the Napier pack. Maxwell said his coaching staff is seeking major improvement from the backs today.

"It was a good tough battle between two pretty even teams and I'm sure both teams will learn from it," West head coach Anthony Easson said.

Prop Adam Akuhata was a powerful figure in the West pack. Captain and halfback Kahlia Awa shone with her option taking and leadership.

While there have been female co-captains previously in the tournament Awa is the first female to be a sole captain of a team in the tournament's history.

Today's matches will see Wairoa take on Hastings East from 1pm, Napier play Central from 2pm and Dannevirke play Hastings West from 3pm.