Rugby: Northland Maori flex muscle

By Cameron Leslie

Northland's Maori rugby team continue to display the talent Maori in the north have, setting them up for a finals showdown next weekend.

A Matt Wright hat-trick helped Northland hammer North Harbour's Maori team by 45-26 on a hard Old Boys' rugby ground.

Saturday's match, which was part of a Northern Region Maori rugby tournament, left Northland coach Shaun Hayes relieved to get some good rugby under their belts.

"This was our first game," said Haynes, after Auckland defaulted last week's match which was scheduled to be played at Waipu. "It took us about 20 minutes to get into the game, [but] once we started we went well. We've got a pretty potent backline and once the ball got out to them it was all over."

Haynes noted his side's support for players when breaks were made, saying each time there was two players in support.

Haynes, who coached the North Zone Maori team to their first Johnny Isaacs Trophy in 20 years, said despite Harbour's best efforts to spoil Northland's ball, Harbour just weren't able to match the strike power of Warren Dunn, Whiria Meltzer and Wright.

"In my opinion, Harbour played a spoiling game. [But] we've got quality forwards, with the likes of Buster Tahere, [and] the idea was to get the ball, give it to the backs, and they'd finish it off," said Haynes.

He said Saturday's win came down to a lot of dedication from his team at training, giving Haynes a welcome complex - who to put in, and who to leave out.

"For our trainings we're getting about 23," explained Haynes. "With that backline, it's hard to keep some guys out, and their fitness levels are pretty good for this time of the year. The core of our team, I think, are putting their hands up [for ITM Cup selection]."

Saturday's win thankfully came at no cost for Northland after two players were taken to hospital in the Colts match before the Northland senior's match.

Next weekend, Northland Maori will play either Bay of Plenty, Counties or Waikato at Waitemata Stadium in Auckland. Northland's Women's and Colts team have also made the finals in their respective competitions.

Scorers: (Matt Wright 3 tries, Whiria Meltzer 1, Warren Dunn 1, Tyler Landsdowne 1, Rhys Te Nana 1; Landsdowne 4 cons, Wright 1 con).

- Northern Advocate

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