Northern Swords 40 Central Districts Vipers 22
Celebrations all round for the two Northern Swords sides which enjoyed history-making victories at Ohaeawai on Sunday.
In the main event of the day's double bill, the premiers (ie seniors) beat the Central Districts Vipers by 40-22 in round 4 of the Pirtek National Competition to break a three-year winless drought in the process.
It was coach Jim Larkin's second groundbreaking victory for the Swords, having coached the provincial 17s side to the franchise's first victory - on Father's Day in Kaitaia - a couple of seasons ago.
The prems' win was the icing on the cake for the small but loyal gathering which turned up to watch the day's proceedings. Big No 8 Solomone Palu (Dargaville Warriors) set the home side up in the opening minutes, finishing off the Swords' first set by crashing through and setting the tone for the rest of the day. Whatever the visiting Vipers came up with, the Swords matched and bettered.
The second try was scored by No 3 Ash Harawira Naera from Whirinaki/ Opononi, recently returned from Auckland (where he helped Pt Chevalier win the Fox Memorial Shield over Mt Albert earlier this month).
Naera was one of several players granted dispensation by the NZRL to return and play for his home province; the Swords being the only franchise in the competition allowed to bring in outside talent, ie those who play outside the domestic competition.
Although singling out individuals does something of a disservice to a collective determination to break a three-year hoodoo, a few key contributions must be mentioned.
Notable was Uncle Joe Rau (Hikurangi Stags), a pink cast on the forearm deceptive, Jerome Henare (Hikurangi) running out at No 13, Harawira Naera's younger brother Corey, devastating throughout and leaving many spectators wondering, 'what were the New Zealand 18s side selectors thinking?'
Hamish Pomare was also in unstoppable form for the home side 17s earlier in the day, scoring early as the 17s romped out to a 44-28 win after a 20-10 halftime score, and increasing their own back-to-back winning record to three on the trot.
Pomare was also overlooked by the Kiwi selectors for the upcoming age grade international against a Queensland schoolboy selection in Whangarei next week but word is he's being closely monitored by Warriors development agent, Stacey 'The Little General' Jones, whose backing of the Kaitaia College standout was starting to appear well justified.
But the Swords prems have their first win on the board, while the 17s continue their unbeaten streak to stay top of the national standings. Can't beat that.
Both curtain raiser and headline match were played in balmy conditions following the previous day's heavy rain which drenched the district. Still, it was a disappointing turnout by league supporters in the region, considering it's not hard to imagine weekly games in the local senior club rugby competition attracting bigger numbers during the season past.
RLN will need to address its policy of promoting these rare home games solely through social networking sites if it wants to garner greater support in the future.
In round 5 this coming weekend, the two Northern Swords teams travel to play the Counties Manukau Stingrays on Massey Park in Papakura. Kick off times are 2.30pm (premiers) and 12pm (17s).
In other local league news, it appears Otaua Valley will be hosting the Canberra Raiders next month (October 12 is the pencilled-in date), with the hosts expected - and needing - to mangle together a strong squad made up of the best players from the Bay of Islands/ Mid North region.