Three key players will be missing from the Hastings Rugby and Sports team when Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby competition begins next weekend.
Hawke's Bay Magpies prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, experienced flanker Fale Matamata and blockbusting centre Timo Vaiusu all left the field with concussion during Hastings Rugby and Sports 28-3 loss to Marist St Pats of Wellington in their first match at the New Zealand Marist Spillane Cup tournament in New Plymouth on Saturday.
"They were all pretty bad concussions. We also picked up another couple of injuries and because we only travelled over with 20 players after some late withdrawals on Friday night we defaulted our second game. We thought that was the best thing to do in the interests of player safety," Hastings manager James Rosenberg said.
Their second match was to be against defending champions Napier Old Boys Marist who blew their chances of a third consecutive Spillane Cup title when beaten 21-17 by Hutt Old Boys Marist in their first match. As a result of their default Hastings Rugby and Sports were relegated to the Ham Cumming Cup division two competition for next year, a year after winning promotion from the division.
First five-eighth Shamara Brooks, who is in his first season with Hastings Rugby and Sports, after leaving Hastings Boys' High School kicked a penalty for the side which trailed 7-3 at halftime.
"Shamara had a really good game. He ran well, took some good options and his kicking game was good," former Magpies fullback Rosenberg said.
"Marist St Pats scored three tries off our mistakes in the second half. Having to play some players out of position took its toll. We were happy with the commitment and attitude of our boys on defence although they were a bit rusty in their first outing of the season. A lack of game time and match fitness contributed to some fatigue," Rosenbeg added.
Along with Brooks, No 8 Aleki Vuki, was prominent for Hastings who missed out on two pre-season outings before the tournament because teams defaulted to them.
Napier Old Boys Marist had two pre-season games before the tournament and displayed the benefits.
"We played well. Just a couple of mistakes on our defensive line cost us but we're going to be faced with some exciting selections throughout the season," coach Craig Gowler said.
The score was 7-all at halftime and NOBM led 17-14 late in the thriller which could have gone either way.
Chilean second five-eighth Pedro Bezanilla, 21, a product of the Southland Boys' High School 1st XV, was classy in the NOBM backline and scored one of their tries. Winger Michael Buckley and prop Lolani Faleiva scored NOBM's other tries and first five-eighth Johnny Lauano kicked a conversion.
Gowler said Bezanilla could be out of action for three to five weeks after collecting a knee injury. The coach was impressed with how his forward pack functioned against a bigger Hutt Old Boys Marist pack.
His rookie front row of Faleiva, fellow prop Lee Molele and hooker Patrick Teddy operated well and openside flanker Ricky Hayes was dynamic. Had Hastings Rugby and Sports and Napier Old Boys Marist met it would have been their first match since June last year when Hastings ended NOBM's unbeaten run at 45 games with a 40-27 victory in a fourth round Maddison Trophy encounter.
"Yes it was a shame we couldn't play but it was the right decision. We've both got games next weekend," Gowler added referring to the first round in the Nash Cup.
NOBM, the Nash Cup holders, will host Napier Technical. Hastings Rugby and Sports have an away assignment against Central. Other first round encounters will see Tamatea host Havelock North, Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports host Taradale and MAC host Maddison Trophy holders Clive.
Hutt Old Boys Marist pipped Marist St Pats of Wellington 39-35 in an entertaining Spillane Cup final.