Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Sonny Bill Williams will likely announce a long-term commitment to New Zealand Rugby tomorrow morning, with two teams both putting down offers for the code-hopping superstars services.

Tana Umaga has been quietly planning for the future at the Blues and has already signed a big name at halfback with the signature of Augustine Pulu, but the rumour mill has always been rife with talk that the one player Umaga really wanted to add to the Blues roster was Williams.

Umaga is so serious to lure Williams that he travelled to Sydney this week to meet with the code-hopping superstars’ manager Khoder Nasser to put an offer on the table.  Continue reading Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Hawkes Bay must finally capture title

The Magpies have lost the last two ITM Cup Championship finals, and Brendon O’Connor will be doing everything in his power to make sure that the trend doesn’t continue.

Hawkes Bay has been an expectant side this season with the return of Zach Guilford and the full time services of several Super Rugby players including Ihaia West.

Losing three straight grand finals would be devastating, especially considering the fact that the Ranfurly Shield has also just left Magpie country. With the services of Brad Weber soon to be available, the Bay would love nothing more than having one of the best halfbacks in the world playing in the top division.

Both the Bay, and their opponents Wellington have a both a lot to gain and much to lose depending on the result tonight.

After being relegated down a division, Wellington has shown a marked improvement in 2015, capturing the statistic of being the best defensive side in the competition. Defense wins titles, and even with the strike power of Ardie Savea who will have a chip on his shoulder for not performing when it mattered most during the Hurricanes near championship run, Wellington still find themselves in a position of doubt.

Wellington have a habit of losing the big games in ITM Cup rugby and it has occurred in finals before, namely against Waikato and Canterbury in years gone.

Hawkes Bay is under more pressure, they must win tonight to gain some sort of belief that can go all the way. In front of a packed house at McLean Park, nothing more than victory will be required.

Counties demolish Waikato in the wet

Waikato is under threat of Premiership relegation after losing again, this time to Counties Manukau 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato this evening.

Credit: Sportal NZ

Counties ran in four tries to secure a bonus point while Waikato could only muster three penalties in a one sided affair on a wet night in Hamilton.

While the chances of making the finals are gone, Waikato will take heart out of a performance where their young side never gave up. But the problem for the Mooloos now sits in the threat of relegation from the ITM Cup Premiership division.

Waikato struggled to hold possession for the second week in a row, losing out on any chance to score tries, but a superior passing and running game saw Counties keep the match in control throughout.

Captain Brad Weber said the result was disappointing.

Full story below:

Exciting rugby flowed early but neither side could get into the oppositions red zone.

Shaun Stevenson and Damian McKenzie helped Waikato enjoy healthy territory early but the defense looked unsure against an attacking Counties backline that wasn’t afraid to throw the ball around.

Piers Francis kicked the Counties to a 3-0 lead after Ben Tamiefuna was pinged by the referee for entering the ruck incorrectly.

McKenzie levelled the scores in the thirteenth minute from a kick just inside the halfway line.

A penalty at scrum time gave Waikato the chance to inch in front but McKenzie’s long-range kick fell just short to keep the scores locked 3-3 after a quarter of the game.

Brad Weber sliced through a gap, powered through a tackler and broke downfield before floating a brilliant pass to Dylan Collier on the wing. A desperate diving tackle from Frank Halai saved the try and Counties were able to clear their lines.

As the rain began to bucket down, Francis kicked Counties back into the lead after Waikato was penalised to make the score 6-3.

Penalties began to mount against the home side but the wet conditions made it difficult for Counties to provide good go forward ball, and when Mitch Jacobson was penalised for offside, poor discipline again cost Waikato but they were lucky to not go down by a further three points.

Counties went into the lead at halftime 6-3.

McKenzie missed a chance to level the scores in the opening moments of the second half

Counties pushed through the Waikato forward pack in red zone and when replays clearly showed that Jimmy Tupou had touched the ball down, the first try of the night was awarded. Francis converted and Counties lead 13-3.

McKenzie notched 100 points for the ITM Cup season, but more importantly, inched Waikato to within a seven-point deficit with the last period of the game remaining.

Just as Waikato looked to be back in the match, a mistake under the high ball would cost the Mooloos a try. Sione Fifita clutched a juggled ball out of the air and sprinted away to score the visitors second try of the match, and go a long way toward victory.

Francis failed to convert, but Counties were in command 18-6.

After a long discussion with McKenzie, Waikato captain Brad Weber reluctantly chose to attempt a consolidating three points, and McKenzie didn’t miss as the score changed to 9-11.

Falling off too many tackles, the game looked beyond Waikato, and things got worse when Peni Iowane was yellow carded after being ruled to have tackled without using his arms.

Jordan Taufua powered over as Counties scored their third try of the night, sealing the match, Francis converted to make the score 25-9 as Waikato’s awful night continued.

Frank Halai scored for Counties, and with that, the visitors brought up their bonus point, and the equal biggest win over Waikato in competition history.

The final score was 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato.

At a glance:

Waikato 9 (Damian McKenzie 3 pen)  

Counties Manakau 30 (Jimmy Tupou, Sione Fifita, Jordan Taufua, Frank Halai, Piers Francis 2 pen, 2 con,

Dreadful Waikato suffer worst loss in thirty years

Waikato has been humiliated in New Plymouth; being held scoreless for the first time in 30 years as Taranaki ran away to a dominant 41-0 victory.

Credit: Mooloo

Five converted tries and two penalties from a superior Taranaki side embarrassed Waikato all night long.

It was the first time the Mooloos have been held scoreless in a match since 1985; a year that most players in the Waikato squad were not even born.

Waikato’s chances of making the finals of ITM Cup have taken a major hit as Taranaki continue their impressive fight back in the premiership.

Co-captain Brad Weber withdrew from the match with illness, and his leadership was greatly missed.

Taranaki got out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to the boot of Codey Rei after Josh Hohneck was penalized for a high tackle as Waikato defended early.

Damian McKenzie didn’t quite have enough distance on a penalty attempt from halfway after Taranaki’s first scrum collapsed. Taranaki looked dangerous in the midfield, but a lapse in communication between Marty McKenzie and Seta Tamanivalu cost Taranaki a chance to score against a stretched Waikato defense.

Regan Ware was denied a try off his first touch when the referee went upstairs to check if their had been a knock on.

Replays showed that the loose ball had bounced off the knee of a Waikato player, despite no hands being involved, it was ruled a knock on and Waikato were forced to sacrifice their try.

Rei extended Taranki’s lead to 6-0 after Waikato were penalized for offside.

Sparking a counter attack on the halfway line, Taranki had the Waikato defense on its heels and a kick ahead made the bounce critical. A poor effort to snap up the ball saw Charlie Ngatai find the ball in his hands and the centre had enough to power over for Taranaki’s first try.

Rei converted and Taranaki were out to a 13-0 lead.

With two minutes remaining in the half, Taranaki had an attacking lineout and a strong breakaway off the throw saw Waikato scramble to their line. Tamanivalu took the ball from the back of the breakdown and reached over to score.

Rei converted and Taranki lead 20-0 at halftime.

Taranaki kept the head on after the break, and when Waikato turned the ball over they were pushed over their own goal line to hand Taranaki an attacking scrum.

Angus Ta’avao scored Taranki’s third try and the game was quickly becoming beyond the visitors. Rei converted and Taranaki led 27-0.

The game was becoming increasingly agro with fights beginning to breakout, Loni Uhila was cautioned for punching Charlie Ngatai, and the two brothers on opposing teams Damian and Marty McKenzie were becoming increasingly feisty off the ball.

Stephen Donald entered the field for Waikato at the 53rd minute, continuing his return to NZ Rugby after four years away.

Sean Wainui scored Taranaki’s bonus point try after an aimless kick from McKenzie set Tamanivalu in space before the handoff. The score was 34-0 and Waikato was now playing to try and get a single point on the board.

Waikato turned the ball over for the 18th time as one of their worst performances in history continued.

Hika Elliot put the icing on the cake, powering over the line with his teammates pushing him on, and Taranaki rounded out one of their best ever performances, beating Waikato 41-0 at Yarrow Stadium.

Waikato will play Canterbury next Wednesday in Christchurch.

Mooloos reveal 2015 ITM Cup squad

Waikato has announced a well-balanced squad for the 2015 ITM Cup season beginning in August.

(Photo credit: Zimbio via Google Images)

The squad features a good balance of uncapped talent and returning players from Super Rugby.

Bryn Gatland will be the Mooloos back up to Damian McKenzie at first five after coming off a strong season with Hamilton Old Boys in club rugby. Gatland was around the Mooloos squad last season but never made it onto the field.

One notable selection is fullback Shaun Stevenson who was an exciting part of the New Zealand School’s side last season.

Ben Tameifuna will play in what is likely to be his last season with the Mooloos as his departure to France draws closer.

The WRU say that Liam Messam’s availability will be determined by his All Black commitments and Tawera Kerr-Barlow is expected to miss some of the ITM Cup due to international duties.

Harrison Levien is the third string halfback for the Mooloos.

The squad announcement put some rumours around the traps that Ross Filipo would be involved in 2015 to bed.

Joe Webber is expected to miss most of the season due to Sevens commitments, but much spotlight will be on the performances of Declan O’Donnell on the wing partnering with Regan Whare who has played superbly for Hamilton Old Boys this year.

Jacob Skeen also returns to the Mooloos fresh off a stint with the NZ Maori.

The full Waikato ITM Cup squad for 2015:

Forwards

Ben Tameifuna (Suburbs)

Loni Uhila (Hamilton Marist)

Josh Hohneck (Fraser Tech)

Atu Moli (University) *

Tau Koloamatangi (University) *

Hame Faiva (University)

Michael Mayhew (Hautapu) *

Jacob Skeen (University)

David Morgan (University)

James Tucker (Hamilton Marist) *

Whetu Douglas (University)

Zane Kapeli (Hamilton Marist)

Liam Messam (Hautapu)

Mitch Jacobson (Hautapu) *

Murray Iti (Otorohanga) *

Josh Tyrell (Hamilton Marist)

Adam Burn (Hamilton Old Boys)

Backs

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Hautapu)

Brad Weber (Morrinsville Sports)

Harrison Levien (Hamilton Marist)

Damian McKenzie (University)

Wharenui Hawera (Hamilton Marist)

Bryn Gatland (Hamilton Old Boys) *

Dylan Collier (Otorohanga)

Jordan Payne (Hamilton Marist)

Anton Lienert-Brown (University)

Chauncy Edwardson (University)

Declan O’Donnell (Melville)

Regan Ware (Hamilton Old Boys)

Joe Webber (Hamilton Marist)

Johnathan Malo (Hamilton Marist)

Shaun Stevenson (Hamilton Old Boys) *

Not considered due to injury

Brian Alainu’uese (University)

Luke Katene (Hautapu)

* = denotes uncapped player

Good Chiefs presence in Maori All Blacks squad

Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie will make their international rugby debuts after being named in a Maori All Blacks squad full of youth.

(Photo credit: JRFC Media via Google Images) 

Damian McKenzie joins his brother Marty for the two tests against Fiji and the New Zealand Barbarians, but will be in stiff competition for a starting role at first five with the outstanding Otere Black also in the squad.

Like for much of the Chiefs season, McKenzie will fit both first five and fullback in the Maoris.

Brad Weber is slated for the starting halfback role after an impressive season with the Chiefs, where some say Weber was unlucky to miss out on All Black selection.

One noticeable omission was Anton Lienert-Brown, having just come off World Championship success with the NZ U-20 squad.

Former NZ Maori representatives James Lowe and Joe Webber were both ruled out of the series due to injury.

The Maori All Blacks have not played a game in New Zealand since 2010.

Two home matches for All Blacks this year

The All Black ‘home’ season is set to be one of the shortest ever as the 2015 Rugby Championship schedule has been officially confirmed this morning.

haka_2688055b

The All Blacks opening fixture will take place on a Friday night, July 17th, against Argentina in Christchurch.

The All Blacks will then travel to South Africa for the traditional Loftus matchup against the Springboks, before travelling back to Oceania for back-to-back matches against the Wallabies on both sides of the ditch.

Argentina will not play host to the All Blacks in 2015.

The All Blacks will get their international season underway with a match against Samoa in Apia.

Kaino returns to All Blacks as June internationals squad named

Jerome Kaino will return to the All Blacks for the three test series against England beginning next Saturday at Eden Park, as was the expected outcome following today’s squad announcement.

1200-jerome-kaino

The two new faces set to make their international debuts are Highlanders midfielder Malakai Fekitoa and Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu, as Hurricanes centre Alapati Leiua misses out on grabbing the black jersey, much to the surprise of a few keen followers of the Wellington sensation. Heading up the key playmaker roles, the three fly halves of Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, and Colin Slade were all named in the All Blacks for the English series.

Andy Ellis misses out on selection, with in form halfback Aaron Smith surely the number one starting pick ahead of TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr Barlow.

All Black coach Steve Hanson says he wants a balance between youth and proven form in the black jersey in his squad.