Premier Div 1 Kickoff

Counties Power Game of the Week – Karaka vs Pukekohe Prems March 12

DateThu, 10 Mar 2016

The Counties Manukau Premier Club Rugby competition gets underway this Saturday and the first Counties Power Game of the Week is between the Karaka and Pukekohe Premier sides.

Pukekohe Prems lost to Karaka Prems the last time the two sides met in last year’s McNamara Cup semi-final, but Pukekohe head coach Rhys Cullinane’s been reasonably happy with his side’s pre-season and he can’t wait to get the 2016 Counties Power Senior club rugby campaign underway.

“We did only play one game in pre-season because our opposition pulled out in our first scheduled hit out which was a bit unfortunate. We played Suburbs last week and that went pretty well. We still have some guys to come back into the mix and a few other things happening, but that’s pre-season and we just have to get used to it.”

As always, Cullinane knows Karaka will be strong when they face off on Saturday. He’s pretty excited about some of the new guys he has coming through.

“We are bringing in mainly young guys who are straight out of High School. They’ve played some pre-season so they look alright. It’s a bit of a hard one at this time of the year we have a lot of young ones having a crack at seniors so it’s great but only time will tell.”

Pukekohe have a couple of players to keep an eye on this Counties Power club rugby season. Cullinane is excited to see how some of his young backs go. Joshua Baverstock is straight out of Sacred Heart and looks like a player with a lot of promise. Siope Kava is a young player out of Wesley College who has a lot of potential and he’ll certainly be one to watch in the future.

Craig Hill is in his eighth season as head coach of the Karaka Premier side and after falling just short of winning the title last year, suffering a narrow defeat to Bombay in the final at ECOLight Stadium, he and his side are determined to go one better in 2016.

“We’re ready to go in the Counties Power competition this year. We’ve had pretty good numbers at training and two really good pre-season games against Waitakere and Hamilton Marist. We have had a couple of injuries but thankfully nothing too serious.”

Hill knows Pukekohe will be a tough first up challenge for his side. He’s credited their organisation at set piece. Karaka can’t afford to make any errors as they know Pukekohe will capitalise on any mistakes.

“It’s always a good game between the Karaka and Pukekohe Premier sides. We have a great rivalry and there’s always a good feeling when we face off” says Hill.

Counties Manukau hooker Sione Anga’aelangi will captain Karaka this season. He takes over from Jamie Gilbert-Clark who is off overseas. Karaka have also lost the services of lock Mike Lawrenson who’s gone back to America. Gilbert-Clark and Lawrenson are the two losses for Hill’s side and his player gains have been guys who have been promoted from the Karaka Under-21 team.

Hill can’t wait to watch the progress of one of his young props Avea Monoisea. He had his first taste at senior level last year and performed well until he got injured. Hill is expecting Monoisea to be a lot better for the experience coming into this season.

“The other player to keep an eye on is fullback Kalione Hala. He’s had a really good off season and he hasn’t had any Sevens so he is in pretty good nick. I’m excited to see how he goes.”

The Counties Power game of the week between Karaka and Pukekohe Prems kicks off at 2.45pm on Saturday 12 March at Karaka Sports Park 3.

The Player of the Day from the Counties Power Game of the Week will receive a big box of veges from our Player of the Day sponsor A S Wilcox & Sons Limited

Photo credit: Richard Spranger