Top marks for sportsmanship on day three of the Ross Shield rugby tournament in Napier go to Napier head coach Matt Maxwell.
His team, the defending champions in the 115th edition of the annual event which is the showpiece of Hawke's Bay Primary Schools rugby, drew 14-all with Wairoa in yesterday's feature match at Park Island. The draw could end up costing the hosts a three peat of titles but Maxwell was far from upset.
"Yes I'm getting a bit greyer and more bald. But I'm an ex-Wairoa Ross Shield player and three of us on our coaching staff are from Wairoa so we are pretty proud of what the Wairoa boys did today," Maxwell said referring to his assistant coaches Tyrone Robinson and Jason Ngaronga.
"Wairoa's defensive pressure was huge. Our boys didn't respond and that was a tribute to the pressure they put us under. We know we have to win our next two games and see how other results go to have a shot at the title now," he added.
Captain and hooker Peyton Kemp was a tireless worker in the Napier engine room. Midfielder Xadrius Brown-Hiha and fullback Jahdyn Williams, Napier's tryscorers, were dangerous with the limited attacking opportunities they received.
Wairoa manager Jodi Ropitini agreed her troops' defensive work was top shelf, particularly during the final two minutes when Napier pounded their line. While she had every right to heap kudos on her entire squad, busy No 8 George Cox deserved his player-of-match award.
"That will give us confidence for our game against Central which is for the Tino Amato Shield which they hold. We win that and we will also win the Life Members Salver which is for the best country team," Ropitini added.
Hastings West have a one-point lead at the top of the points table courtesy of yesterday's 33-14 win against Central. West led 19-0 at halftime in what was a polished rehearsal for today's Bill Mathewson Memorial Trophy clash against Hastings East.
However, West head coach Anthony Easson wasn't getting carried away about his team's chances of lifting the Ross Shield on Saturday.
"Anyone could take the shield at this stage," Easson said.
West centre Phorte Gurnick, who scored two tries, was the player-of-the-match. Blindside flanker TJ Vekene had a huge defensive workrate and prop Jonty Good was another key architect in the victory.
Central head coach Rob Evans said his side put West under the pump for long periods but often couldn't convert their territorial and possession advantages into points. However, he was proud of Central's never-say-die approach.
Particularly prominent were locks Josh Leach and Dylan Wind and No 8 Sam Bartram in the pack and first five-eighth Rylee Ward and centre Jack Shearman in the backs.
Nationally ranked age group swimmer Michael Lansdown, who is playing lock for Hastings East scored two tries and earned player-of-the-match honours during their 36-0 win against Dannevirke. Fellow lock Leilani Williams and centre Tim Slabbekoorn also impressed for East.
Dannevirke manager Bevan Ellison he said he couldn't have asked for anything more from his troops who displayed vast improvement on the previous day's 72-0 loss to West. Flankers Charlie Free and Tamati Rautahi had massive defensive workrates for Central.
Today's matches will see Napier take on Dannevirke in their Steve Cottrell Memorial Cup clash from 1pm, Wairoa will play Central from 2pm and the Battle of Hastings kicks off at 3pm.