Bridge Pa maintained their unbeaten run in Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby league competition with what player-coach Ihaka Waerea described as a "shabby performance" on Saturday.
"We were missing eight players from last week and it was only during the final 10 minutes that we were able to come from behind and take control," Waerea said after his troops' third round 40-32 win against Dannevirke Tigers at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.
Three players, hookers Tama Dunn and Benji Cowan and Maddison Trophy-winning Clive rugby prop Kereama Peni made their debuts for Bridge Pa who gave standoff Jackson Waerea a winning blazer game. Unlike in rugby, when players receive their blazers for 50 games, Bridge Pa have decided to have 25 games as the criteria for blazers as the league season isn't as long as the rugby season.
Nathan Ramsay, who had stints as a centre and backrower, was Bridge Pa's player-of-the-match. Dunn, inside back Colin Hokianga and outside back Jarome Mareikura were others to make their player-coach's MVP list.
Fullback Waka Petera, prop-secondrower Tobias Allison and standoff Zion Clarke were among the Tigers' best.
Despite losing player-coach Boy Waaka with a serious leg injury, defending champions Kahuranaki beat winless Maraenui 34-20. The Bay's most successful premier club coach, 79-year-old Waka Leonard, coaches Maraenui who opted for premier grade play this season after finishing second in the reserve grade last season.
"It was always going to be tough for us. But it is tougher than I thought it would be because most of our players work night shift and we lost half of our team to Bay Bulldogs in reserve grade when they realised we weren't getting good turnouts at trainings," Leonard, who has won 19 premier club titles, said.
Former Magpies rugby centre Karl Broughton shone at hooker for Maraenui. Prop Falcon Hooper and his cousin Pohatu Hooper who had stints at centre and in the second row also made Leonard's MVP list.
Defending champions Bridge Pa maintained their unbeaten run in the women's competition with a 36-22 win against Tamatea. Bridge Pa coach Alan Mason said his entire squad shone with fullback Nina Pineaha-Hyslop, standoff Whitley Mareikura and hooker Tanarsha Mason particularly prominent.
Veteran hooker Lisa Ropiha impressed with her defensive workrate for Tamatea and promising prop Ashley Palu was powerful on the carry. The other women's match saw Hastings Rugby and Sports beat improving newcomers YMP 38-12.
In reserve grade Bay, Bulldogs handed defending champions Bridge Pa their first loss of the season with a 32-16 victory. This match was an entertaining encounter and two late tries from the fitter Bulldogs saw the score blow out.
The other reserve grade match was also a thriller and it saw Flaxmere pip Omahu Huia 38-34.