MARKED MAN: Bridge Pa utility Willie Schuster attracted plenty of Omahu Huia defenders when he carried. Photo/Warren Buckland
Rugby league
By Shane Hurndell
Defending champions Bridge Pa issued an early warning to their Hawke's Bay premier rugby league competition rivals on Saturday - they're going to be tough to dethrone.
Player-coach Ihaka Waerea and his troops walloped last year's runners-up Omahu Huia 58-14 in the first round of their Spring Competition at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.
Bridge Pa displayed the benefits of being the only Hawke's Bay team to play in the Mid Central Coast to Coast competition earlier in the year but they will be fools to get too carried away with the margin as they were up against a mediocre Omahu Huia outfit.
"It was good to sort out our structures but there was still a bit of rust there," Waerea said afterwards.
"The power in our forwards and the speed in our backs proved the difference today," he added.
Fullback Jarome Mareikura was an elusive runner for Bridge Pa. Backrower Ramiha Smiler was the best of Waerea's forwards.
Omahu scrumhalf Kavana Ioane regularly tested the Bridge Pa defence. Backrower Tama Hawkins was the only Omahu forward who had the necessary fitness levels to compete with his Bridge Pa counterparts.
"We thought it was a bit dumb of the competition organisers to put last year's finalists up against each other in the first round.
"But we can recover from this. We've got seven weeks to make the top four and because it's our 40th anniversary we want to do well this year," Omahu co-coach and former New Zealand Universities rep Henry Heke said.
Dannevirke Tigers had plenty of youth and enthusiasm on display as they beat the 2014 and 15 champions Napier Panthers 36-32. Tamatea beat Kahuranaki 44-34 in the other premier match.
It was a memorable day for the Bridge Pa club as their women's team thrashed Dannevirke Tigers 56-4 and their reserve grade side beat MAC 52-20.
Maraenui opened their reserve grade campaign with a 42-26 win against Flaxmere. Maraenui are being coached by Waka Leonard and for this reason alone will be the team to beat in this grade.
Leonard, 78, is in his 43rd year of coaching and has won 19 Hawke's Bay premier men's titles.