Ardmore Marist are searching for their first win of the McNamara Cup season and they will get a stern test when they host in-form Patumahoe at Bruce Pulman Park on Saturday.
Former Samoan skipper and Highlanders star Felipo Levi has taken over as coach of the Ardmore Marist side this season as the club attempts to rebuild after a disappointing 2022 season.
Levi’s task is not an easy one in an era of everyone chasing a quick fix in an environment that calls for a methodical, long-term approach.
“Our goals for such a new team and management is that we are realistic that that this season is going to be challenging,” Levi told Counties Sports Hub.
“The results so far have been mixed in the competition, but we have seen glimpses of success with what we can do and knowing to do to be better for the next game.
“Forming combinations and creating systems for the players to buy into is a process but with persistence, hard work and resilience we will see positive results.
“This year we have five teams across Ardmore Marist Rugby senior men’s teams and we have also 26-27 junior age group teams.
“These are positive signs and a result of hard work by the management, board and parents.”
Levi knows the Patumahoe challenge this week will be significant.
“This week’s game against Patumahoe is huge for us as it will be our first home game at Ardmore Marist in front of our supporters and families,” he said.
“Patumahoe are a quality outfit and are coached very well so we know what they will bring.
“We are focussing on being quite physical as team this week, which we have lacked over the last two weeks. We have trained well and prepared hard for what will be a tough encounter.”
Patumahoe have picked up wins over defending champions Manurewa and Papakura in their first two matches of the season.
Papakura will host neighbours Manurewa in what shapes as a fascinating battle between two winless sides at Massey Park.
Under new coaches Jarrod Firth and Mark Thomas, Papakura have played with vigour through the opening three weeks but are still chasing an elusive first win.
They run into a Manurewa side that pushed Karaka and Patumahoe hard in their two games so far, only to fall just short.
Both sides will be desperate to bank the points.
Bombay, fresh off a draw with Pukekohe last weekend, hosts Karaka up the hill in another match that will be worth keeping an eye on.
The visitors have looked sharp, with three wins from three to top the standings early in the season while Bombay have a win and a draw from their two matches.
A full round of Bob Chandler Cup Premier Reserves is scheduled with Ardmore Marist host unbeaten Patumahoe, Bombay tackling top-of-the-table Karaka at Bombay and Manurewa travelling to Massey Park to face Papakura.
Weymouth, coming off a big opening week win, will host defending champions Puni at Laurie Gibbons Reserve in week two of the Sid Marshall Shield Championship.
First up winners Onewhero and Te Kauwhata meet at Onewhero Domain while Te Kohanga will look to make it two wins from two when they travel to Maramarua to face a home side smarting from coughing up a lead late against their arch-rivals Te Kauwhata last weekend.
Waiuku will chase their first win of the season when they host Manurewa at Rugby Park while Drury will aim to go two from two when they host Patumahoe at Drury Domain.
Tuakau has the bye.
It is a battle of the neighbours in the Massey Cup U21 competition with defending champions Karaka hosting Patumahoe at Karaka Sports Complex in a mouth-watering contest.
Elsewhere in the grade, Manurewa visits neighbours Papakura at South Park while Ardmore Marist hosts Pukekohe at Bruce Pulman Park.
Week one winners Beachlands Maraetai host defending champions Onewhero in the U85kg grade at Te Puru Park on Saturday.
The two sides had contrasting opening games with Beachlands Maraetai picking up an impressive win while Onewhero went down to Waiuku in a replay of last year’s final.
Patumahoe heads to Rugby Park to tackle Waiuku, Pukekohe travels to Bruce Pulman Park to play Ardmore Marist and Drury hosts Karaka at Drury Domain.
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