Rugby: Pair add spice to locking battle

By Shane Hurndell

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From left: Geoff Cridge, Ben Parsons and Tom Parsons.
From left: Geoff Cridge, Ben Parsons and Tom Parsons.

Hawke's Bay rugby fans would understand if Tom Parsons got his brother Ben to add some unsavoury ingredients to his flatmate Geoff Cridge's meals during the coming days.

While New Zealand under-20 lock Cridge and Tom Parsons will start alongside Ben for IMS Payroll Hastings Rugby and Sports in a seventh round Tui Maddison Trophy clash against Clive at Farndon Park today they will be opposing locks in the Hawke's Bay Magpies trial at Waipukurau's Central Park on Wednesday night.

"There's obviously going to be a bit of flak between Geoff and I before the trial. But his meals won't be touched ... if things don't go to plan in the trial there will still be Magpies pre-season games for me to push my case to be the third lock," Tom explained.

It's a given Hurricanes squad member Mark Abbott and Michael Allardice will be the starting locks in the wake of their 2013 ITM Cup and this season's club form to date. Tom Parsons pointed out at 23 and four years older than Cridge with five first class games from the past two seasons on his CV he's got experience and superior physicality on his side.

"I just need more game time. Having seven weeks off with my broken hand was a setback ... I can't wait to get that form I was displaying before the injury back," Tom said.

The pair marked each other earlier this season when Tom played for the Hurricanes' development side against the New Zealand under-20s.

"There was a little bit of niggle," Tom recalled.

Cridge will be playing his first club game today since the mandatory two-week standdown after the Under-20 World Cup. He agreed there is a "bit of heat" in the tussle to be the Magpies third lock.

He has heard how Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's player development manager Joe Payton and others at Magpies headquarters are labelling him as "the next Brodie Retallick."

"I would prefer to be my own man but it's nice to hear the comparison. I'm more of an aggressor and not as loose as Brodie but it would be great to follow a similar path," Cridge said referring to former Magpie Retallick who is now a key cog in the Chiefs and All Blacks engine rooms.

Although his Baby Blacks team finished third at the Under-20 World Cup Cridge said it was a great experience and the 32-25 semifinal loss to the Baby Boks was the hardest game he had played in.

"We were in the same hotel as the South Africans and they couldn't believe they had won that game."

Magpies head coach Craig Philpott has been forced to make a late change at openside flanker in the Saracens XV for the trial. Hawke's Bay Insurances Limited Napier Old Boys Marist's Sean Watts has withdrawn with a season-ending shoulder injury and been replaced by Hastings Rugby and Sports Tom Burns. Of particular interest to Philpott and assistant Danny Lee will be the battle for the third hooker between Clive's Jorian Tangaere and Taradale's Mike Feagai.

"There are at least three or four berths in our Magpies squad we want to nail. This trial will also assist with the naming of the Development side which will play under the Saracens name and of course there will be several occasions when the Saracens will get five, six or seven Magpies," Philpott said.

Other seventh round Maddison Trophy fixtures today will see unbeaten competition leaders Progressive Meats Havelock North start as favourites against Northfuels Central at Anderson Park, defending champions Tech Group of Companies Napier Technical in a must-win home clash against Carters Frame and Truss Taradale to keep their semifinal hopes alive, Tamatea host NOBM in a feature club day clash at Bill Mathewson Park and Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports start as favourites against MAC at Tamatea Park.

Teams for Wednesday's 6pm trial:

Hawke's Bay XV: Matt Berquist (vice-captain), Trinity Spooner-Neera, Ted Walters, Billy Ropiha, Liam Edwards, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Ellery Wilson, Joseph Penitito, Tom Stanley, Aaron McPhee, Tom Parsons (captain), Angelo Mufana, Ezrah Amituanai, Jorian Tangaere, Mark Braidwood.

Substitutes, forwards: Jarvy Aoake, Jody Allen, Ben Parsons, Trent Boswell-Wakefield. Backs: Isaac Paewai, Jackson Neilson, Tom Iosefo, Penikolo Latu.

Saracens XV: Ryan Tongia, Timo Vaiusu, Jason Shoemark (captain), Tane McGuire, Noa Uaisele, Manihera Eden, Adam Ross, Mark Atkins, Tom Burns, Kaleb Sweet, Geoff Cridge, Scott Wielinga, Jason Marshall, Mike Feagai, Jason Long (vice-captain).

Substitutes, forwards: Hamish Willis, Kelly Petrowski, Adrian Barone, Michael Allardice. Backs: Chris Eaton, Ethan Bradey, Mikey Vuicakau, Dan McIntyre.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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