If you fancy footy with flair, passion and a dash of hard-case, get your weekly fix of Haati Grassroots Rugby.

To these eyes, the club genre trumps every other format. It works as a swift antidote on Maori or Sky Television if you ever feel your love of the game wavering.

Obviously it has nothing to do with skill level.

Comparing club toilers with the slickness of their test counterparts is akin to choosing between a dubbined Adidas Universal or the latest creation from the Gilbert laboratory.


No cookie cutter has infiltrated the player production line either.

All shapes and sizes rumble, scythe or stride with the ball in hand. What would you expect from players who have already worked a 40-hour week and been to training before taking the field on a Saturday afternoon?

Hmmm, afternoon. Now there's a concept to savour.

Defences tend to be more porous than at the game's elite level, but that's not to diminish the flair on show. Club players are as sharp as Auckland motorists at spying a gap.

HGR flourishes on a diet of authenticity across its 21-episode season. That is helped by the avuncular tones of play-by-play commentator Richard Mason and the All Black credibility brought by Ian "Kamo" Jones with his expert analysis. Their delivery conjures up a whiskies-round-a-roaring-fire mood. Truncating the five 80-minute matches into highlights packages adds to the show's digestible nature.

For anyone who has played or followed the game, HGR provides a thorough insight into what's happening around New Zealand's 26 provincial unions - it's a veritable rugby Country Calendar.

This week brought finals action from Horowhenua-Kapiti, Thames Valley, Canterbury, Auckland and East Coast.

First, we were taken to a packed Levin Domain to see Toa defeat Rahui 41-32 for the Ramsbottom Cup.

A playing highlight was a scramble off the back of a Rahui scrum five metres out, which results in Toa snaffling the ball to score.

An off-field jewel was the couture; gumboots, swannies and a strong presence of denim. The post-match hongi and haka showcased the pride at stake, as did triumphant captain TJ Fermanis stating "it was real Māori chemistry rugby".

"All shapes and sizes rumble, scythe or stride with the ball in hand." Photo / Photosport

The show segued to Thames' Rhodes Park. Former Swamp Foxes coach and All Black selector Ross Cooper introduced the McClinchy Cup final between Thames and Waihi Athletic.

Cut to scenes of snarlers and caramelised onions being popped into bread with tomato sauce slashed across the top.

How's your club rugby palate faring now?

Thames' coach Shaun Richards said he advised his players to "just enjoy the day, and get through your routines and structures".

Waihi Athletic mentor - and former Spain boss - Bryce Bevin, resplendent in a beret, said he was lucky to "inherit the legacy" of Cooper's work at Waihi College which had made many of the players like family. Exhibit A? A cardboard sign supporting "Uncle Jethro".

Special moments included the Thames centre's fend and the Waihi No.8's robust running – think C.E.Meads v Border in 1970 - as the visitors won 26-17.

HGR tends to be a forum where Heartland union players bedazzle, but the club competitions of Auckland and Christchurch Metro shone, too.

Lincoln University beat New Brighton 26-5 to claim their fourth straight Hawkins Trophy.

Victorious coach Bevan Sisson said his side's average age was 19, which probably offers an insight into the state of clubs in Super Rugby hubs.

A nugget came with the discovery All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was in the stand watching his daughters coach and play in other matches.

"Women's rugby is on a high," he advised, "And it filters from the top to the bottom. This is what club rugby is about."

Ponsonby beat University 35-23 at Eden Park to claim their first Gallaher Shield title in seven years.

Finally the show headed to Tolaga Bay.

Uawa held off Tokararangi 25-21 to secure the Rangiora Keelan Memorial Shield.

An estimated crowd of 1500 settled into the comfort of ute trays buttressed against sheep fencing. Banners such as "No.15 is my Dad" and the Uawa-inspired "Fifty shades of blue-tiful" wafted in the breeze.

Local commentator Ben O'Brien-Leaf described the scene as "not just energy and excitement, but happiness, too".

Hear, hear.

Sport doesn't get any more raw or enticing than those scenes.

Long may rugby's grassroots tapestry survive.