SHANE HURNDELL
Imagine New Zealand Sevens star Tafai Ioasa and Nui Bartlett playing together as flankers for Hawke's Bay during the NPC second division rugby competition.
Kelt Capital Magpies coach Brendon Ratcliffe indicated this was a serious option for him during his team's 62-7 walloping of the Hawke's Bay Development side at Porangahau's White Domain on Saturday.
Hawke's Bay's version of Australia's potent duo of Phil Waugh and George Smith would certainly be hard to combat.
"You're right. There's so much healthy competition for the No 7 jersey that playing two of us together is an exciting way of dealing with it," said Ioasa.
After opting out of last year's NPC campaign to concentrate on his Sevens commitments, Ioasa, 24, is happy to back in a Magpies jersey, which he has worn in 33 first class games since his 2000 debut.
He said the team's five-day tour of the province, which ended yesterday, inspired renewed enthusiasm in the jersey for him.
"We've never had such a tour before. We now know where the jersey has come from and so much about players who have had the jersey in the past ... it was mindblowing stuff," he said.
Saturday's match was just 45 seconds old when Ioasa scored the first try. Ratcliffe's troops proved they were more than ready for next weekend's NPC opener against defending champions Nelson Bays.
All 22 players plus the five Magpies squad members who turned out for the Development side put their hands up for berths in the 22-strong team to take on Nelson Bays.
Fullback Jacob Kennedy, winger Kevin Ward and loose forward Pama Petia all worked well as "loan" players in a Development side where an old Hastings Boys' High School halfback/first five-eighth combination of Amos Ioasa (Tafai's brother) and Storm Carroll operated well.
Although on the receiving end of a walloping, the Development side still had long periods of quality defence particularly in the first half when they conceded just four tries. It was a tribute to the Magpies' defence that the Development side didn't score their first try until the 70th minute through centre Robert Rameka.
Magpies props Clint Newland and Tom Symes were powerful in the winning pack. Replacement halfback Richard Bousfield impressed with his distribution while centre Ben Allen made the most of his opportunities with two tries - a feat matched by Symes.
Ratcliffe was thrilled with the display and said it was more worthwhile than playing Poverty Bay or King Country prior to the start of the NPC which has occurred in recent seasons.