New Zealand domestic league gets a taste of representative action on Saturday night when the New Zealand Maori Residents host the Auckland representative side.
It is the second-straight year these two sides have met in a mid-season showdown, with last year’s match turning out to be an absolute thriller, won 36-32 by the Maori side in Rotorua.
The game forms part of the New Zealand Maori Rugby League Rangatahi Tournament, which this year is being held in Hawera.
Auckland v NZ Maori Residents kicks off at 7.00pm NZT on Saturday, June 4 at Hicks Park in Hawera.
The teams: New Zealand Maori Residents (from): Jonathan Carl (Pt Chevalier), Taylor Daniels (Pt Chevalier), George Edwards (Papakura), Jethro Friend (Howick), Shane Hannam (Glenora), Garry-John Hape, Carlos Hotene (Howick), Dylan Moses (Pt Chevalier), Manaia Osbourne, Jeremiah Pai (Pt Chevalier), Te Ariki Peneha, Cruze Rauner, Dion Snell (Mt Albert), Tony Tuia (Howick), Matti Tuitama (Pt Chevalier), Trent Wallace (Mt Albert), Manu Weepu (Mt Albert). COACH: Neville Rogers.
Auckland: 1: James Dowie (Papakura), 2: Saula Solomona (Pt Chevalier), 3: Lokeni Gavet (Marist), 4: David Dyer (Richmond), 5: Alan Niulevu (Papakura), 6: William Stowers (Papakura), 7: Raymond Talimalie (Mangere East) 8: Leon Latoa (Richmond), 9: Henry Dunn (Mt Albert), 10: Siliga Kepaoa (Pt Chevalier), 11: Paul Tuli (Mt Albert), 12: Patrick Sipley (Pt Chevalier), 13: John Vuetibau (Papakura). INTERCHANGE: 14: Reece Joyce (Papakura), 15: Andrew Tusaine (Papakura), 16: Uila Aiolupo (Papakura), 17: Semisi Tyrell (Mangere East), 18: Justus Areaiiti (Manurewa). COACH: Rusty Matua.
NZ Maori Residents’ key player: Dylan Moses. He has everything you need from a middle forward with the added bonus of ball-playing ability pre-contact. Moses can act as a second five-eighth to take pressure of his halves and add another headache for the opposing defence. Watch for him to link up with the likes of Jonathan Carl and Manu Weepu on the edges.
Auckland’s key player: Raymond Talimalie. The Mangere East playmaker is once again among the best players in Auckland this season, following on from last year when he was named the Fox Memorial Premiership Player of the Year. On the ball he is composed, and has some unpredictability in his arsenal with a chip and chase or footwork close to the line. His big test will be continuing to lead the team in positive fashion if they go behind early.
How it will go: It should be a close game in the end given the teams are fairly well matched in terms of talent, but expect plenty of momentum shifts and both sides to dominate 10 or 15 minute blocks at a time. But this game forms part of a huge occasion for the NZ Maori boys, and the match will mean that little bit more to them which should get them home. Auckland are also weakened by the loss of hooker Misi Ma’u and bookends Eddie Purcell and Soape Kavaliku. New Zealand Maori Residents by eight.
(Photo: Erica Sinclair).