A day in the sun at training on Wednesday. From left: team members Harry Godfrey and Lincoln McClatchy, coach Brock James and midfielder Folau Fakatawa. Photo / Warren Buckland
Hawke’s Bay Magpies head coach Brock James has faith in the team that won to start the Ranfurly Shield last weekend.
James has named the same 23 players who will feature in Sunday’s provincial national championship semi-final as those who beat Wellington 20-18 last weekend.
The team’s announcement on Saturday morning marks a return to focus on the main goal of the season during the week and the shield being made up of two halves – from the highs of winning the shield challenge to the lows of breaking the shield itself during the post. – match revelry.
The spree is now part of an investigation into New Zealand Rugby, and in one case it also ended up in the hands of police after a player was charged with drink driving after crashing into a fence in suburban Napier.
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There will be no shield on the line on Sunday, but the Magpies’ dream of becoming the first Hawke’s Bay team to win the NPC in 48 seasons, first played in 1976, will be on the line.
Hawke’s Bay’s fortunes remained with a run of victories in the lower divisions and their best ever finish, topping the table but suffering semi-final defeat two years ago in a 2021 season blighted by Covid-19 disruption. a crisis.
They have reached the semi-finals four times and a repeat is again on the horizon after the Magpies finished fifth in the standings, just one point behind fourth-placed Bay of Plenty in what is effectively a consequence of the ” Steamers” with a score of 38-35. win the Battle of the Bays at Napier on 9 September.
Due to the quirky influence of bonus points on the 14-team standings, both teams won seven of their 10 games but finished behind Canterbury, who surged into third place despite winning just six matches.
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A Ranfurly Shield win over the defending champions and on Wellington’s home turf against a side looking to extend the Union winning streak record to 20 matches showed the 2023 Magpies can beat anyone, despite a spate of mid-competition defeats to Auckland and Northland away , and then to the Bay of Plenty.
The course stability came with a 57-7 win over Manawatu on September 15 at McLean Park, the Magpies’ final home game of the season unless BoP and the top three lose in the quarter-finals or semi-finals.
It was said this week that winning on Sunday is a “personal matter” for the players with their pride on the line after the fiasco.
Some may find it even more personal as Hawke’s Bay were beaten 12-7 by Bay of Plenty in Rotorua in 2019 in the final of the then NPC Championship Division while chasing premiership promotion.
The match saw Magpies winger John Lowe, who will return to action on Sunday, score the only try, with all of the Steamers’ points coming from penalties. The game was tight in the end with the Magpies putting together 28 stages but being held in check by the Bay of Plenty defence.
Lowe is one of 13 of Sunday’s 23 players to feature in the match, as is first five-eighth Lincoln McClatchy, the only Magpie to have started all 10 matches this season to date.
McClatchy’s 103 points take him to 432 in all games for Hawke’s Bay since his debut in 2018, just three points behind the 435 of 1956-65 player Tony Small, who is fourth. place in the list of top scorers. for almost 140 years of Hawke’s Bay’s existence, rugby’s senior representative.
TAB had Bay of Plenty as favorite to win, paying $1.62 on Friday morning, while Hawke’s Bay paid $2.35.
The squad for Sunday’s game at Tauranga Domain, which kicks off at 2.05pm, is as follows:
1 Puri Rocket Stones, 2 Tyrone Thompson, 3 Joel Hinz, 4 Jeff Kridge, 5 Tom Parsons (captain), 6 Marino Michaele Tuu, 7 Josh Kaifa, 8 Devan Flanders, 9 Brad Weber, 10 Lincoln McClatchy, 11 Jonah Lowe, 12 Chase Tiatia, 13 Nick Grigg, 14 Ollie Sapsford, 15 Lolagi Visinia.
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Subs: 16 Jacob Devery, 17 Tim Farrell, 18 Bo Abra, 19 Frank Lochore, 20 Sam Smith, 21 Folau Phakatawa, 22 Stacey Ealy, 23 Caleb Makene.