Mental toughness fuels defending champs Maddison Trophy quest
Hastings Rugby and Sports captain Jacob Devery reckons the mental toughness within his squad will propel them to a second taste of Maddison Trophy glory tomorrow.
"Things are a bit different with our team this year. We've had to deal with injuries, farewells and tragedy ... this has brought us closer together," Devery (pictured above right) explained in the countdown to tomorrow's final against Taradale Rugby and Sports at Napier's McLean Park.
The tragedy he is referring to was the death of prop Dennis Tapusoa's daughter Meryanne last month. The farewell is that of Magpies winger Mason Emerson who left the Bay last weekend to begin his contract in France.
Magpies prop Jason Long is again on the injured list.
"We know the match will go down to the wire. We need to win up front and be really physical and clinical," added the 22-year-old Magpies hooker, Devery, who is enjoying the fun involved with playing No 8 for his club side.
Hastings manager James Rosenberg said this will be the third consecutive Maddison Trophy final for the core of the squad.
"They know how important it is to treat it like another week. We have to play together as a group, do the basics right and have a better start than we had when we lost to Taradale in the Nash Cup final."
Taradale Rugby and Sports captain, Magpies prop Namatahi Waa (pictured above left) , is also banking on the depth within his squad. Chiefs and Magpies prop Joe Apikotoa has withdrawn with concussion and Lolani Faleiva will be promoted to the starting XV and Hurricanes under-20 prop Jayden Walker will be promoted to the bench.
"Joe was amped for the final so it's a bit of a bummer for him. But we do have to watch our heads these days," former Maori All Black and Blues Super player Waa said.
Waa, 30, knows how Apikotoa feels as he missed last year's semifinal and final through injury and illness. Waa tasted Gallaher Shield glory with Pakuranga in Auckland in 2014 and he helped his home club Pipiwai win Northland's division two title in his younger days.
"Our bench will have a lot to do with the outcome. We know it will be a tough game and we have to make things happen to earn the right," Waa explained.
He pointed out there hasn't been any banter at Magpies training sessions between the Taradale and Hastings players.
"That shows how focused we are on what is coming up with the Magpies."
Taradale co-coach Tim Combs is impressed with the belief and depth within his squad.
"We've got the strongest bench we've had for three years. We expect the match to go deep as the weather conditions aren't expected to be the best," Combs said.
Five Hawke's Bay club rugby finals will be played at McLean Park during the next two days. Two curtain-raisers will be played to the Maddison Trophy final tomorrow.
The 11.20am division two final will see the MAC Premier Reserves take on Waipawa Country United. Central Rugby and Sports will take on Taradale Rugby and Sports in the 1pm colts final.
Tonight's 5.30pm division three final will see Clive Rugby and Sports play Taradale Rugby and Sports. Havelock North will meet Aotea Sports in the 7.10pm division one final.
Teams for tomorrow's 3pm Maddison Trophy final:
Hastings Rugby and Sports: Jayden Rihia, Gideon Kautai, Danny Toala, Ausage Fomai, Saifiti Saifiti, Jordan Thompson-Dunn, Connor McLeod, Jacob Devery (captain), Fale Matamata, Jardine Chung Ching, Jessie Lesa-Sipaia, Emil Crichton, Dennis Tapusoa, Miracle Lolofie, Angus McGuire. Substitutes: Matt Wilson, Eugene Sandilands, Joe Taafi, Ioane Ioane, Xavier Hill, Andrew Hayward, Danya Tulou.
Taradale Rugby and Sports: Ollie Sapsford, Nathan Ramsay, Hemaua Samasoni, Kienan Higgins, Majella Tufuga, Brad Truesdale, Humphrey Sheild, Iakopo Mapu, Nathan Tweedy, Josh Eden-Whaitiri, Angelo Mufana, Sam Combs, Lolani Faleiva, Gene Syminton, Namatahi Waa (captain). Substitutes: Jayden Walker, Jacob Ward, Andrew Gardner, Thomas Eden, Karl Hewitt, Cam Robinson, Dylan Ramsay.