Rugby: Speedster likened to former Bay great

By Shane Hurndell

Hawke's Bay under-20s rugby winger Zane Crook has no idea who Aaron Hamilton is.

However, he was "pretty honoured" to hear some of the older spectators at Saturday's 32-12 win against the Manawatu under-20s at Napier's Park Island were comparing him with "Midget" Hamilton, a former New Zealand Sevens representative who scored 36 tries in 57 first class games for the Magpies between 1993 and 2000.

"It's always good when you are compared with players from the past," Crook said.

The 19-year-old Hawke's Bay Academy member was producing Hamilton-type bursts and gutsy Hamilton-type defence during the Bay's first Hurricanes competition match of the season. One of his bursts led to a try, which with halfback Sheridan Rangihuna's conversion gave the Bay a 22-7 lead after 32 minutes.

Crook pointed out he had an extra incentive to perform on Saturday. Four of his former Feilding High School 1st XV teammates were in the Manawatu side.

"It was good to beat them but all of us Bay boys know we've got a bit to work on before we host Wellington next weekend," Crook said.

"We struggled with our defensive structures until midway through the second half. We've got to work on our line speed on defence and be a bit more patient on attack."

Hawke's Bay's game plan saw them moving the ball at pace, which should work well against their bigger Wellington opponents this weekend. Manager Blair Heasley had every right to be proud: "Having the week off last weekend helped. The boys were fizzing and ready for battle ... they've worked hard during the last couple of weeks and they got the bonus point victory they deserved."

Crook and fellow winger Penikolo Latu were always dangerous on attack. Latu was also lethal on defence and it won't be a surprise if he is moved in to centre for the Wellington match, as he relishes the physical style of play Wellington is expected to bring.

Busy No8 Levi Guildford and blindside flanker Aaron McPhee were others to shine with their defensive workrates for the Bay. They were members of a forward pack which had no passengers and was again well led by New Zealand under-20s hooker Rhys Marshall.

Manawatu had a bigger pack but it wasn't cohesive. Captain and No8 Tepasu Thomas made some memorable charges but too often lacked support. Halfback Ben Edwards and fullback Clayton Stewart were the pick of the Manawatu backs.

Manawatu ITM Cup winger George Tilsley came off the bench for the visitors but he was well contained by the much smaller Crook.

Hawke's Bay's other male rep teams in action on Saturday were also winners. Centre Jonah Lowe and winger Mathias Konia both scored hat-tricks as the Bay under-16s thrashing their Wanganui counterparts 50-7 in Dannevirke, the Bay under-14s beat their Wairarapa Bush counterparts 26-14 in Dannevirke and the Bay under-13s pipped their Manawatu counterparts 26-24 in Waipukurau.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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