It's fair to say Hastings West prop Adam Akuhata copped more flak than he should have in the countdown to this week's Ross Shield tournament in Napier.
"He kept reminding me how good Napier were in his day and how good Napier might be this week ... it was a lot of good fun," Akuhata said referring to his brother Reece "Wheels" Akuhata.
Reece played in the winning Napier team in 2013 and the second-placed Napier side in 2014. He still holds two Ross Shield records from 2014 - most tries in a game with eight and most tries in a tournament with 13. Today he will play for Hawke's Bay in the final of their Whanganui-hosted Hurricanes under-16 tournament against Wellington.
While 13-year-old Lindisfarne College year 8 student Akuhata, a West co-captain, is unlikely to threaten his brother's records he is earning praise for his ironman-type displays at prop despite playing halfback for his Napier Pirates Sharks 12th grade team this season.
"I started playing prop for Hastings West at the Wakely Shield last year. Hopefully we go one better with a title this week ... I'm confident we can," Akuhata said after West's 72-0 drubbing of Dannevirke in yesterday's feature match at Park Island.
"I'm loving playing prop but will focus more on halfback again from next season," he added.
Utility back James Craig was impressive for West and scored four tries. Flanker Monte Timu, a brother of the 2003 player-of-the-tournament Star Timu, had a high workrate in the winning pack.
Dannevirke manager Bevan Ellison said the West backs were too slick for his side which came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. Fullback Joshua Augustine, halfback and captain Alec Baker and hooker Manaia Hauiti were the best of the Dannevirke players.
It took a last-minute try from substitute prop Juan Ross and conversion from midfield back Xadrius Brown-Hiha to give defending champions Napier a 14-8 win against Central.
"It was an unreal game which felt like a final. Everything Central had been promising was given," Napier head coach Matt Maxwell said.
He pointed out his squad dedicated their victory to flanker Cody Johns who was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament after breaking his wrist seven minutes into the first game on Tuesday.
"That put us down to 21 players for the rest of the week and all the boys dug deep for him today with plenty of ticker," Maxwell said.
First-year player Jahdiel Asovale at lock and lock-loosie Luke Chamberlain were inspirational in the Napier pack. Brown-Hiha and winger-centre Sam Kanthavong were enterprising in the Napier backline.
"Napier are a tough team and we saw why they are the defending champions. But our team played with a lot of heart and should be proud of their effort. They are pretty disappointed but we will bounce back tomorrow," Central head coach Rob Evans said.
While Evans said it would be unfair to single out any of his players after such a cohesive team effort he heaped kudos on his fellow coaches Jim Doolan and Braydon Hardwidge and managers Ian Large and Jonny Ward for they work they have put into making his team so competitive.
Player-of-the-match, openside flanker Tyrone Chrystal, scored two tries as Hastings East recorded their first win of the tournament with a 20-5 victory over Wairoa.
"The whole team did well to eliminate the mistakes from the previous day. The final score doesn't reflect how well the opposition went but our superior fitness paid off," East manager Kelly Frewin said.
Lock Michael Lansdown and substitute prop Edu Tremain were others to shine in the East engine room. Second five-eighth William Malatai was the pick of the East backs.
Wairoa manager Jodi Ropitini agreed it was a closely fought encounter until East got away during the final 15 minutes. Fullback Steven Huata and flankers George Manson and Peter Powdrill were all prominent for Wairoa.
Today's games will see Hastings West play Central from 1pm, Dannevirke take on Hastings East from 2pm and Napier play Wairoa from 3pm.
■ Scorers and standings - Page 45.