Rugby: Workaholic No 8 sings even when side's losing

By Shane Hurndell


Here's a first for Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby competition's weekly MVP award.

Clive No 8 Mark Atkins is the first winner from a losing team in the award's three-year history. However, Atkins was an obvious choice for this season's fifth winner in the Tui-Hawke's Bay Today Club Player of the Year award after registering a phenomenal 353 metres on the charge and a tireless defensive work-rate during his team's 26-14 loss to Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at Park Island on Saturday.

"I'm pretty happy with my form. At the same time there are still things to work on and keep tweaking," Atkins said as he reflected on the game.

"I'm lucky the Clive scrum has been pretty sweet and this makes my job easier."

The hat-trick hero from Taranaki's 32-17 win against North Harbour in the January final of the national Sevens in Queenstown, Atkins, 22, was disappointed Clive's second half performance wasn't as good as the first when they scored 11 unanswered points. However, with second five-eighth Billy Ropiha, a 2009 Hurricanes Schools teammate of his, back from a stint in England to tighten up the midfield, Atkins was confident about Clive's chances of recording another couple of wins before the end of the Nash Cup round.

Clive host Hawke's Bay Insurances Napier Old Boys Marist at Farndon Park this Saturday. Atkins has been copping plenty of flak in the buildup to the game as he is staying with Magpies manager Neil Weber who is a staunch NOBM supporter.

"Neil keeps telling me my parents are going to watch me in two consecutive losses," Atkins said referring to his Dad, former Canterbury No 8 Dale Atkins and mother Leith, who arrived from Taranaki in time for last weekend's game and will also watch this weekend's before returning to their schoolteacher commitments.

Atkins is likely to mark Mark Abbott, another contender for a loose forward berth in the Magpies ITM Cup squad this season.

"I watched him in a pre-season game and he looks pretty handy," Atkins said. A former Otago under-19 and colts representative, Atkins is involved with the Magpies school holiday coaching programme this week. Next week he will resume his work as a teacher aide at William Colenso College and also take on a new role as a sports co-ordinator at Maraekakaho School.

"These roles are a great way of getting out in the community and meeting with rugby fans. I get plenty of feedback on rugby happenings and I wouldn't get that if I wasn't working," he added.

It's obvious Atkins is enjoying his time in the Bay and his form on the paddock is reflecting that enjoyment. Needless to say the enjoyment factor will increase if he can walk into the Weber household after a Clive victory on Saturday.

Best & FairestPirate v Clive:

3, Mark Atkins (Clive); 2, Matt Hill (Pirate); 1, Kelsey Miller (Pirate).

NOBM v MAC:

3, Semiperive Semeane (NOBM); 2, Jeston Craig (MAC); 1, Mark Abbott (NOBM).

Taradale v Tamatea:

3, Jaaron Fritz (Taradale); 2, Hamiora Rowlands (Tamatea); 1, Manihera Eden (Taradale).

Napier Technical v Central:

3, Mark Braidwood (Tech); 2, Leo Ene (Tech); 1, Tamati Samuels (Tech).

Havelock North v Hastings Rugby and Sports:

3, Ausage Fomai (Hastings); 2, Brad Nicol (Havelock), 1, Zane Rangi (Havelock).

LEADERBOARD

9 points:Mark Atkins (Clive).

8 points: Mark Braidwood (Tech).

6 points: Semiperive Semeane (NOBM), Kelly Petrowski (Havelock).

5 points:Hugh Reed (Tech), Michael Allardice (Pirate), Hamiora Rowlands (Tamatea).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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