Rain could be the challenge for unbeaten North Otago

Lemi Masoe will be out of the starting line up for North Otago. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
Lemi Masoe will be out of the starting line up for North Otago. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
North Otago will be out to make it four wins in a row tomorrow.

It meets Poverty Bay in the Heartland Championship in Gisborne, after defeating Otago Country, South Canterbury and Wairarapa-Bush.

However, it may be the climatic elements that it will have to overcome. The forecast for Gisborne is rain, an element that North Otago has seen little of in the club rugby season.

North Otago will be without its two most experienced players. Centurions prop Ralph Darling and midfielder Lemi Masoe are missing from the starting team. Kelepi Funaki starts on the loosehead side of the scrum, while Meli Kolinisau returns from New Zealand Heartland XV duty to the tighthead.

Masoe's absence will be filled by Clement Gasca.

Poverty Bay's coach, Tom Cairns, has coached the Gisborne High School First XV and teams in the Hurricanes franchise.

Relatively young, Cairns had to give up playing rugby because of a bad back injury.

"I'm a teacher by trade so my coaching philosophy is really about the establishment of positive relationships and coaching helps me to do this," he said.

"Early in the season we played Thames Valley and 21 of the 23 players were players who had been coached by me at some time. We try to use only local players plus three players of origin.

"The main aim is to strengthen rugby in your region."

Poverty Bay has had a win and a loss so far. It had a 17-15 win over Thames Valley and last week lost to South Canterbury 40-29, but had a strong second half.

The Heartland competition is an even one. After two rounds, only West Coast and North Otago are unbeaten, while Whanganui, usually a strong contender, has lost its first two games.

The third week of competition will see top-of-the-heap West Coast (nine points) play Mid Canterbury (five) in Greymouth.

Also playing are Buller (five) taking on Whanganui (one) in Westport, South Canterbury (five) hosting Horowhenua-Kapiti (five), Thames Valley (five) meeting East Coast (one) in Paeroa and Wairarapa-Bush (four) taking on King Country (five) in Masterton.

Heartland Championship

Nth Otago v Poverty Bay

Gisborne, 2.30pm today

North Otago: Patrick Pati, Howard Packman, Clement Gasca, Sam Tatapu, Adam Johnson, Michael Williams, Robbie Smith, Josh Clark, Jacob Coghlan, Jake Greenslade, William Kirkwood, Charles Elton, Melikisua Kolinusau, Sam Sturgess (captain), Kelepi Funaki. Reserves: Hayden Tisdall, Ralph Darling, Joshua
Hayward, Manulua Taiti, Anthony Arty, Lachlan Kingan, Taina Tamou. 

Poverty Bay: Andrew Tuatevalu, Nathan Rangihuna, Wthin Reeves, Mark Atkins, Korey Love, Tane McGuire, Willy Grogan, Tamanui Hill, Adrian Wyrill, Quade Tapsell, Gabe Tekani, Ken Houkamai (captain), Semisi Akane, Rikki Terekia, Taru Noanoa. Reserves: Mate Kaeroa, Lance Dickson, Willy Bolingford, Mario
Counsell, Jake Holmes, Scott McKinlay.

By Terry O'Neill

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