Rugby: Delight for new boy in win over Auckland

Otago loose forward Gareth Evans training at the University Oval yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago loose forward Gareth Evans training at the University Oval yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
He may be only a new boy in the Otago team but Gareth Evans derived just as much pleasure as anyone when Otago ended its long losing drought against Auckland last week.

Evans, who will turn 20 next week, has looked very impressive at No 8 in Otago's opening three games and was part of the side which ended Otago's 35-year run of defeats at Eden Park.

For Evans the win was double delight - a victory over Auckland and beating a team coached by Mark Anscombe, who had disappointed Evans earlier in the year.

"It was an awesome experience to beat Auckland. Words can't really describe what it was like to see the grins on guys like Kees Meeuws and Tony Brown. It had been a long time coming for Otago," Evans said.

"Plus I got to beat the coach who didn't pick me for the [NZ] under-20s, Mark Anscombe. He was the forwards coach and did not pick me. I was on stand-by but didn't get to go in the team.

But it was good to get back at him." Evans said the win over Auckland became a distant memory when the side lost to Hawkes Bay, his home province on Sunday.

"I think we just sort of went through the motions really.We were not really clinical at set piece and that is something we have been working on this week.

"With the short training window you have in this competition you've got to take full advantage of the training times you do get." Evans is just the latest in a long line of players to head south from Hawkes Bay to wear the blue and gold.

A younger brother of two-test All Black Bryn Evans, he was educated at Napier Boys' High School, captaining the first XV, the Hawkes Bay under-18 side and was called into the Hurricanes schools side in 2009.

Evans said people in Hawkes Bay still wanted to attend the University of Otago, and if Otago picked it up on the rugby field more of them would head south.

"The university especially still attracts a lot of people from there. I was umming and aahing, although I always wanted to come to Dunedin. Then I got into the academy in the first year and that was great."

Evans said student life and being a rugby player meant having to pick and choose at times but there was still the opportunity to have a bit of fun.

He was studying for a bachelor of science, majoring in geography, although he had cut his studies back this semester because of rugby demands.

He played premier club rugby in Dunedin the first year out of school and said the major difference between first XV rugby and the club stuff was the club games were a lot more physical.

But similarly the introduction to first-class rugby has been helped by those around him.

"I never expected to be playing at this level when I was 19.

Coming in you have players like Eben [Joubert] who is really good with the young players.

Everyone helped me in my role.

"I was not thrown in the deep end at all. That helped me not be nervous playing." Bryn Evans (26) has signed a contract to play for London Irish later this year while another brother, Rhys (23), has finished a degree in viticulture and is heading to a job in Europe.

The youngest brother, though, will not be heading ashore any time yet. He has the small matter of three games in eight days, starting with a match against Northland in Whangarei on Saturday.

"Phil [coach Phil Mooney] has called it our state of origin week as that is what it is like. But we've just got to get our mental preparation right and make sure of that."


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