Rugby: Allardice the best chef among twin towers

By Shane Hurndell

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LOCKED UP: Hawke's Bay Magpies locks Michael Allardice, left, and Mark Abbott will be aiming to lock the shield away for another week in the Bay today. Photo / Glenn Taylor
LOCKED UP: Hawke's Bay Magpies locks Michael Allardice, left, and Mark Abbott will be aiming to lock the shield away for another week in the Bay today. Photo / Glenn Taylor

Meet the ``Twin Towers'' in the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby side ... Michael Allardice and
Mark Abbott.
The pair who lock the Magpies scrum together are also flatmates on Napier's Marine Parade together with former Magpies training squad member and former East
Coast first five-eighth John Semple.
However this doesn't mean all the flat talk is rugby orientated.
``We keep the code and flat separate. There's plenty of in-flat banter but you're right ... living together certainly comes in handy when it's time to talk about our roles on match day,'' Allardice explained on the eve of the Magpies first Ranfurly Shield defence of the
season against the Counties-Manukau Steelers in a fourth round ITM Cup fixture at
Napier's McLean Park today.
``We knew each other but not really well when we were in Canterbury.
We've got to know each other well since we've been here in the Bay,'' Allardice said.
A year younger than Abbott at 22 and three centimetres taller at 2m, Allardice pointed out he is the tidy one in the flat and ``Abbott's the messy one.''
``Mark isn't a great chef but he tries. I'm the best of the worst you
could say ... my favourite dish is a Pad Thai while Mark enjoys anything in
the slow cooker, particularly corn beef,'' Allardice said.
While the pair may not be as cohesive as they would like in the kitchen the same can't be said of their partnership on the field. Abbott has already attracted the attention of
Super Rugby franchises and if Allardice can continue the form he displayed in last weekend's 20-19 Ranfurly Shield victory against Otago in Dunedin it will
only be a matter of time before Super Rugby contracts are waved under his nose.
Like so many products of the Canterbury age group system, Allardice,
isn't getting carried away with his success nor is he counting his chickens in
terms of scoring a Super contract at the end of the Magpies season.
``I take things game by game.

I know if the form is right the rewards will
come at the right time.''
Allardice, who attended Palmerston North Boys' High School
before heading to Christchurch for university studies, is also conscious of his work ons.
``I've got to lift my physicality rate around the field, be more aggressive at the ruck
area and improve my defence,'' Allardice said.
He described last weekend's win as the highlight of his career.
``It was a humbling experience. I was so proud because I learnt how
much the shield means to the province ... I didn't really understand what it
meant until we arrived back at Hawke's Bay Airport with it.''
After having one game for Canterbury as a substitute, a couple of
minutes, in a 33-11 ITM Cup win against Auckland last year,
Allardice is enjoying being ``fully immersed'' as an ITM Cup starter with
the Magpies this season.
It's a logical step in a career which included New Zealand Schools
selection in 2009, New Zealand Universities under-21 selection in 2010 and New Zealand Universities senior team selection for the last three seasons.
The Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports club player is also sorted for life after rugby. Last year he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in
marketing and business management.
When it was suggested he was on target to become the next CEO of
the Hawke's Bay union Allardice replied:``We'll leave that to
Bish [current CEO Mike Bishop].''
Allardice's parents Graham and Helga farm in Marton. They will miss
today's game but intend to be at McLean Park for next Sunday's clash
against Northland, an extra incentive for Allardice to help the
Magpies retain the shield today.
Abbott and Allardice will start in a Magpies starting XV unchanged
from the one used in last weekend's victory against Otago. Changes to the
subs bench see Adrian Barone replace All Black prop Ben Franks and
Maori All Black and Hurricanes openside flanker Karl Lowe replace
Tony Lamborn.
Steelers head coach and former All Black captain Tana Umaga
must have breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday when powerful
No.8 Fritz Lee was cleared to play.
Fritz was issued with an off-field yellow
card following a judicial hearing after being cited for a dangerous tackle in
the Steelers 22-20 loss to Auckland on Wednesday night.
The Premiership Steelers boast the most lethal backline the
Magpies will have faced this season to date. All
Black Sevens stars Sherwin Stowers and Frank Halai along with
Chiefs midfielder Bundee Aki and Crusaders-bound midfielder Rey Lee Lo will
all have to be marked closely.
Former All Black and Magpies hooker Hika Elliot's tussle with his
former deputy Ash Dixon will be worth the price of admission alone.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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