Rugby: Team look to dine out on rivals

By Shane Hurndell

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule's promise of a dinner outdid the trick for the Hastings West Ross Shield rugby team last year.

Will it work again is the major question in the countdown to the start of the 111th annual Wattie's Ross Shield tournament, the showpiece of Hawke's Bay Primary Schools rugby, at Park Island, Napier, today.

Last year Yule backed up his promise by taking the team to dinner at the Hastings RSA after the Ross McLeod-coached side returned triumphant from the Dannevirke-hosted tournament.

At last Friday's capping ceremony for IMS Payroll Hastings West at the Hastings Rugby and Sports clubrooms Yule told the team if they or Hastings East win the tournament for the city he would again shout the winning team to dinner.

"The boys were impressed with the incentive.

"We're not the favourites but we fancy our chances," former Magpies first five-eighth McLeod, who is in his third season coaching the team, said.

McLeod acknowledged Napier are the favourites and knows how keen long-serving Napier coach Steve Woods is to clinch a seventh title before he retires.

"Steve has had a great innings.

"But we want to spoil the party ... we're going out to win the tournament again," McLeod said.

"At the same time we know it's a tough week and it will be a pretty competitive tournament."

McLeod has four of last year's players, captain and openside flanker Donovan Mataira, hooker Damarus Hokianga-Heather, blindside flanker Liam Udy-Johns and first five-eighth Jeriah Mua, back again.

McLeod pointed out Mataira, a son of former Magpies prop Colin Mataira, was a player to watch for the future.

The tournament continues until Saturday when the naming of the Hawke's Bay Ross Shield team is a feature of the post-tourney presentations.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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