Apr 2, 2012

Western Pioneers

Sat 31st game

The 2012 North Harbour club rugby season commenced this weekend when the Century 21 Burmester Realty Western Pioneers played Glenfield at North Harbour Oval.

New captain Taione Vea proudly led his team out, ready and primed to take on a strong looking Glenfield side.  Glenfield had first use of a strong wind blowing straight in from the Hauraki Gulf, and soon had a penalty awarded to them handy to the posts.  Their experienced former North Harbour rep Jack McPhee, who had a strong game, was on target and they led 3-0.

The Pioneers could not have come back in more emphatic style.  From the kickoff, big Josh Williams thundered through and gathered the kick on the full, crashed through several tackles before off loading to Richard Ah Chong who gave it to Ross McKean for him to open the scoring for the visitors.

The Pioneers were now starting to find their rhythmn as the backs got some good ball.  They narrowly missed a try when a foot was determined to have been put in touch, but nothing was going to stop Ah Chong from scoring himself after strong runs up the middle by the forwards.  New recruit, first five Jamie Taulagi, kicked the conversion.

Glenfield were using the strong wind to get good field position, and from a quickly taken tap penalty close to the Pioneers goal line, they ran through a couple of ineffective tackles and scored wide out.   Again the Pioneers came back and after some fine backing up and support play from backs and forwards, Taulagi scored but could not convert, and  Western lead 17-8 as the halftime whistle was blown.

With the wind behind them in the second half, it didn't take long for the Pioneers to get the scoreboard moving again.  Big Jimmy Tuivati, who has as much respect for his physical well being as Gerry Brownlee has respect for Finland, crashed his way 40m up field before off loading to the support players and Taulagi scored his second try, which he converted.  Young JamieTaulagi is a fine prospect, fresh out of St Kentigan's championship winning 1st XV.

Glenfield then had a good period of play, and were deservedly rewarded when McPhee placed an astutely judged cross field kick into the arms of his flying wing, who completed the exercise by scoring in the corner.  Pioneers supporters may recall that last year their team walloped Glenfield by 100 points.  This year Glenfield have a much stronger team, especially so in the forwards and they gave the Pioneers a solid workout in all departments of the game.

The next try was a beauty, created by captain Taione Vea.  When the ideal physique  of a prop needs to be determined, look no further than Taione.  His body has been hewn out of granite, he's the size of Mt Cook and can run with the strength of a force 10 gale.  With ball in hand, he creates as much havoc as a bull careering through the proverbial china shop.  He caused carnage to the Glenfield defence all day, and after this particular 50 meter rampage he set up a try to wing Junior Aminasi.  Taione was deservedly named player of the day.

It's worth noting that at this stage all the tries had been scored by players who had not previously scored for the Pioneers.

Two further tries were scored by Jimmy and Fou Tuivaiti, neither of which was converted, and the game ended with the Western Pioneers winning 39-13.

Whilst it was a convincing win, and without wanting to overdo the cliches, there is still a lot of facets of the game for the Pioneers to work on.  The coaching triumvirate of Stu Hollier, Tani Fuga (his first game as a premier coach) and Hugh McGahan will have been pleased with the support play, strong running and generally good handling, but looking for improvement in set piece work, work at the breakdown, goal kicking and a reduction in the numbers of penalties conceded.

The next game against Takapuna at Helensville on April 14 will give coaches and supporters a better indication as to how good this Pioneers team may be.

In the early game, the Pioneers Senior First team showed great character by fighting back and scoring a last minute try to defeat Glenfield 18-17.  For many of this team, it was their first run for the season and should give them the impetus required to get to trainings and have a successful year.  Toops McCartney has had his arm twisted to coach them again, with Craig Abercrombie the manager.

General News

This time last year we welcomed three fine lads from the UK to the Pioneers, namely Tom Page, Josh Williams and Geriant Walsh.  Twelve months on andonly Josh is still with us. 

Geriant has headed back to Wales and has a contract with Welsh club Pontypridd, which is a feeder team to the Cardiff Blues.  We will follow his career with interest.

Big Tom has found better things to do than being smashed around each weekend, and with girl friend in tow, is leaving our shores next week for his home back in England.  He had a good career position here with Westpac, and will continue in the banking sector on his arrival home.

Josh has a very good job with Tegal Chicken at head office in Newmarket.  He has really bulked up in the off season, a combination of gym work and eating half a dozen chickens each day.  He would be a great specimen if we could convert him to a red meat diet!  He is part of a very big Pioneers forward pack and on the basis of his performance yesterday, is set for an exciting season.

All three boys had a fantastic time during the Rugby World Cup, following their respective teams throughout the tournament.

It was most encouraging to see two local boys make their first appearances for Western after they were unable to play last year due to serious injuries.  Josh Sinesa is a local Helensville boy who had to have  a knee reconstruction after a preseason injury in 2011.  He supported the team all last year and has come back, admittedly a few kg overweight, and has paid for this by being drafted into the front row, where he had some valuable game time.

Aleiki King is from Kumeu, and played outstandingly for Helensville three years ago as a wing or full back.  He had to have his shoulder repaired last year.  With more game time his confidence will return and he will make a valuable contribution to the team.

Spotted on the sideline watching the Pioneers on Saturday were last year's captain Nalu Tuigamala, who is now plying his trade in Wellington as he looks for an ITM Cup contract, and last years first five, and goal kicker supreme, Regan Oxenham.  Regan insists he's just having "time out", but with the amount of pressure being exerted on him to come back by his old team mares, don't be surprised to see him back in the number 10 jersey in a few weeks time.

Also seen on the sideline were Denis Henderson and Miles Marcroft, who , as they would have you believe, are the back bone of the North Harbour Union.  It was an honour to have men of such iconic standing within the Union come and watch the Pioneers.  Miles has been associated with club rugby since the time William Webb Ellis  picked up the ball and ran with it, so when he says he thinks the Pioneers will be there when the whips are cracking at the business end of the season, you take note.

Finally, our season launch function which takes place on Friday April 13 at the Kumeu Rugby Club at 6.00 – 7.30pm.   Food and drinks will be in the all inclusive ticket price of $70, as will several raffle draws based on ticket numbers for locally produced delicacies.  Sponsors, team management and some senior team members will be introduced. 

The guest speaker is local resident and former All Black Greg Sommerville.  Greg works at the Kumeu branch of PGG Wrightson and will be assisting the Pioneer's forward pack from time to time with their scrummaging techniques and general forward play.

A further highlight will be an auction of the signed All Black jersey by the RWC winning team, generously donated by Premier's manager John Sutton.  A couple of other items including a new double bed will also be auctioned, all for the cause of financing the two Western Pioneers teams for the 2012 season.

If you haven't  been contacted yet you can email Anna, the Kumeu secretary at   anna@kumeurugby.co.nz  or Helensville secretary Jodi at   secretary.hdrfc@gmail.com for your tickets.

It will be an entertaining evening, and the bar will remain open for those who want to stay on and watch the Blues play the Sharks.  This is our major function for Western Pioneers supporters and we look forward to your attendance.


Richard Kidd