It was a tough start to the 2019 Central Region Shield for the Heartland Hurricanes team and their seven Wanganui Under 20's players after a 36-3 loss to Hawke's Bay Under 19 in a rainy Palmerston North on Saturday.
Initially five Wanganui players – Kohlt Coveny, Josefa Rokotakala, Jason Myers, Lamaire Meunier and Jack O'Leary – had been named in the Hurricanes squad for the three match series.
However, backs Tiari Tokotaua-Mumby and Jamie-Lee Robertson were late additions for the opening game, arriving as injury cover and covering an unavailablity on Thursday and Friday respectively.
Starting the match were Coveny at hooker, Rokotakala at lock, Myers at flanker, and Tokotaua-Mumby at second-five, with the other three coming off the bench.
Playing at the Sport & Rugby Institute, Heartland Hurricanes were still in the match when trailing 10-3 at halftime, having opened the scoring through a penalty by first-five Arana Murphy (Horowhenua-Kapiti).
The heavy wet conditions made handling difficult, but Hawke's Bay, who had four origin players from Wellington, made better use of their possession, after the Hurricanes made costly turnovers after periods of patient build-up.
Hawke's Bay scored four more tries in the second half, with three converted, to blow out the score.
"They all acquitted themselves well, it was fairly horrendous conditions," said Whanganui's Chris Back, the team manager.
"It was a bit of a mud bath."
Hawke's Bay have played matches together compared to Hurricanes having one training session on Friday.
Back said Coveny and Myer went well with their stints, while Rokotakala played the full match in the engine room.
Robertson was unlucky to be injured, ten minutes after he came on in the second half.
In the other game at CET Arena, Wellington U19 comfortably accounted for Manawatu U19, 28-0.
This Friday, the Heartland Hurricanes will play on the big stage as they face Wellington U19 at Westpac Stadium, kickoff 5.05pm.
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The New Zealand Marist Under 23 team and their Wanganui Marist lock Bradley O'Leary completed an undefeated tour of the North Island with three victories in the Hawke's Bay during the week.
After hammering Poverty Bay Development 75-25 last Sunday, NZ Marist moved on to defeat Wairoa Selection 28-7, before facing a combined Hastings Marist-Napier Old Boys Marist team on Wednesday, comfortably winning by what is believed to be 42-7.
The tour wrapped up on Friday evening at McLean Park in Napier in the curtain raiser to the Mitre 10 Cup game, with NZ Marist U23 defeating Saracens Under 23 42-10.
Having been the specialist lock for the team on their tour, O'Leary returned to Whanganui on Saturday and will likely rejoin the Wanganui Toyota Development XV for their next game against Wairarapa Bush Development this weekend in Masterton.
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The Wanganui Development team should find their opposition feeling very confident in Masterton this weekend, after Wairarapa Bush Development travelled to Spriggens Park on Saturday and held on for a 29-26 win over Wanganui Samoa.
The Ace Malo-coached home team were trailing significantly at halftime in the rain and mud-affected match.
Like their previous Spriggens game against Manawatu Samoa, they staged a stronger second stanza, but this time could not run down the visitors.
Wanganui Samoa was using the game as warmup for their final High Commissioners Cup game with Hawke's Bay Samoa this coming weekend in Levin.