Rugby: Swim role boost for Benson on the field

By Shane Hurndell

Willy Benson can see the parallels between his MAC premier rugby side and his Heretaunga Sundevils swimming club.

"Both were once very strong and have since been through some tough times. Both are on the verge of being a force again," Benson said.

The 25-year-old 2008 Beijing Olympic Games swimmer produced a player-of-the-match performance for MAC as they upset Hastings Rugby and Sports 12-3 on Saturday to become this season's second round winner in the Tui-Hawke's Bay Today Club Player of the Year award.

An openside flanker, Benson, dominated the battle for the loose ball and referee Bruce Dockary said he was the difference between the two teams.

Benson is thrilled MAC is unbeaten after two rounds.

He said the team is benefiting from a tough off season of fitness training. "This is the fittest many of these guys have been. Last year we put ourselves in positions to win games but didn't have the fitness to finish off ... this year we're able to hang in there and finish off."

Adding to Benson's enjoyment is the fact this is the first season he has been able to play in the same team as two of his brothers.

Twenty two-year-old Chris Benson started at prop on Saturday and 21-year-old David at fullback.

"David and Chris have played for the University under-21s together before down in Wellington but because of my swimming commitments I haven't been able to play with them until now," Benson said.

A senior squad coach with the Sundevils and assistant coach with the juniors, Benson said his swimming background was ideal for the No7 role in rugby.

He has plenty of oxygen at times when opponents are struggling.

His job involves 5am starts for coaching sessions, which means by the time MAC club training begins on Tuesday and Thursday nights he has already been on the go for 12 hours.

"Because I've been involved in swimming for so long I'm used to those early starts. There's usually only one day a week when I have to catch up on an hour or so of sleep," Benson said.

A son of MAC head coach and Cook Strait conqueror Pat Benson, he is happy his rugby playing commitments don't clash with his swimming coaching ones.

His next major meet will be the short course nationals in September when the club rugby season has ended.

Benson is looking forward to MAC's first home game of the season against Tamatea at Flaxmere's Ron Giorgi Park on Saturday.

"Playing Tamatea was my first premier game last year.

"It was pretty physical as there is so much rivalry between the two clubs.

"We're expecting a similar close and tough game again," he said.

Best & FairestMAC v Hastings Rugby and Sports:

3, Willy Benson (MAC); 2, John Te Ngaio (MAC); 1, Ausage Fomai (Hastings).

Napier Technical v NOBM:

3, Darren Deely (Tech); 2, Mark Braidwood (Tech); 1, Sean Skeet (NOBM).

Havelock North v Central:

3, Adam Bradey (Havelock); 2, Bryce Barr (Central); 1, Tony Lamborn (Havelock).

Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports v Taradale:

3, Aayden Clarke (Pirate); 2, Matt Brown (Pirate); 1, Robert Tane (Taradale).

Clive v Tamatea:

3, Mark Atkins (Clive); 2, James Tango (Clive); 1, Hamiora Rowlands (Tamatea).


5 points: Mark Braidwood (Tech).

3 points: James Tango, Mark Atkins (both Clive), Aayden Clarke, Michael Allardice (both Pirate), Adam Bradey, Kelly Petrowski (both Havelock), Darren Deely (Tech), Willy Schuster, Willy Benson (both MAC), Hamiora Rowlands (Tamatea).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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