Imagine you are a club rugby player, it's Saturday afternoon and you're tying up your boots, ready for some grassroots goodness. Then, you look across the field and see an All Blacks player warming up with the opposition.

That was the case for Te Puna on Saturday when All Blacks and Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, born and raised in Rotorua, used the Chiefs' Super Rugby bye round as an opportunity to come home to play for Whakarewarewa.

It was a daunting prospect for the home side Te Puna but they did not allow themselves to be intimidated. In fact, they dominated as they flew out of the blocks and never looked back on their way to a 52-26 victory.

Te Puna coach Aidan Kuka says his side played "very well".


"We were able to use our backs quite a bit and put together a pretty good performance, especially in the first half. We came out of the blocks really hard and we knew we had to really, to try to silence the red and blacks and their supporters. They were coming over on the back of two good wins so we knew we had to start well to try to give ourselves a chance.

"We like to play quite a fast game, a wide game, we didn't try to exploit any weaknesses it was more about playing to our own strengths."

Kuka says Tahuriorangi's appearance was not only good for Whakarewarewa as a club but for the whole Bay of Plenty rugby community. However, he believes his own halfback more than stood up to the challenge.

Whakarewarewa's Terangi Fraser looks to burst through a gap against Te Puna. Photo / Shannon Gray
Whakarewarewa's Terangi Fraser looks to burst through a gap against Te Puna. Photo / Shannon Gray

"It was absolutely great for our community as well. I know it's had a positive effect on the Whakarewarewa community but it was also awesome for us to see an All Black in action.

"But to be honest, I thought our halfback Jordy Stone was just as outstanding. He was awarded our player of the day. Jordy's a class player, he's been with us now for three years and he was really up for the challenge [of going against Tahuriorangi].

"I thought he stepped up really, really well - he set up a lot of our tries and scored a good try himself."

Whakarewarewa coach Boxer Smith says his players were caught off guard by fast-starting Te Puna.

"Right from the start I think they'd done their homework and exploited a few of our weaknesses. They exposed us on the edge and once they got three or four tries up in the first 20 minutes, we always knew we were going to have to try to play catch-up football. That's not a position any rugby team wants to be in."


Smith was pleased with the way his team stuck to the job despite trailing.

"The message at halftime was to just dig deep and put a bit of pride back in it. I think we did that in the second half and the boys showed character doing that. Unfortunately, that first 20 minutes really cost us the game.

"Te Toiroa was good, you can see he's a quality player. Unfortunately, he was on the back of it as well but he really enjoyed his time with us playing some grassroots rugby. He said it was a priviledge to be playing with us but we also knew it was a priviledge for us to have him.

"He said any opportunity he gets to come back and play, he'll definitely make the most of it."

Baywide Rugby Results

Saturday, April 6

Te Puna 52 Whakarewarewa 26, Te Puke Sports 50 Greerton Marist 10, Rangataua 32 Arataki 28, Rangiuru 52 Te Teko 5, Rotoiti 27 Ōpōtiki 15, Mount Maunganui 24 Tauranga Sports 19.

Premier Development
Te Puna 93 Whakarewarewa 0, Te Puke Sports 31 Greerton Marist 14, Rangataua 51 Arataki 19, Rangiuru 44 Te Teko 0, Rotoiti 26 Ōpōtiki 21, Mount Maunganui 33 Tauranga Sports 27.

Division One
Waikite 29 Whakatāne Marist 10, Ruatoki 29 Marist St Michael's 29, Paroa 41 Pāpāmoa 17, Ngongotahā 31 Kahukura 17, Judea 17 Reporoa 14, Murupara 20 Poroporo 14.