Counties Power game of the week - Papakura v Ardmore Marist - Saturday 25 March 2017

DateThu, 23 Mar 2017

Papakura will have a point to prove in this Saturday’s Counties Power Game of the Week when they face neighbours Ardmore Marist at Massey Park.

Having spent the past few seasons as the competition’s easy beats Papakura is starting to show signs of growth and improvement. They were the better side for the first 20 minutes against Patumahoe in the opening game a fortnight ago before a red card and a yellow shortly after saw the game slip away.

But they backed that strong performance up with a disappointing loss to Manurewa last week.

Coach Gavin Giles, a former Counties lock, says they can see significant improvement in the side over the past 12 months but it will take time to get where they want to be.

“I think we definitely have improved since last year. Our first game filled us with a lot of confidence just the way our defense shaped up against a full side with us spending 10 minutes with only 13.

“We undid ourselves a bit with our resolve last week. We need to carry on. That is going to happen as we continue to rebuild. We just need to re-visit what we did well against Patumahoe and get more confidence from that style and the confidence will grow again.”

Half of the battle for the coaching staff is convincing young players that don’t have a lot of experience or a winning culture to call on to believe in themselves.

“Our team call was around belief and to change the shape of what has gone before them,” Giles says. “We have got a lot of inexperience and we have blooded a lot of young guys last year but they have grown as well. A lot of them played rep rugby and this year we just want to develop on that.

“Games like last week hurt but we have to lift them up and give them belief that they can take that extra step.”

They run into an Ardmore Marist side that sits atop the standings after two rounds.

Ardmore Marist coach Saua Leaupepetele is stressing that his side won’t under-estimate Papakura.

“We never under-estimate any team,” Leaupepetele says. “What I learned last year is that if you turn up unprepared or relaxed you can get a fright during the game.

“We know they took a hammering last week and we know they will be trying to prove a case that they are better than they were the week before against Manurewa.”

Both sides will be less than full strength with early season injuries playing a part. Papakura will sweat on the health of two props this week after taking knocks last week.

There are more than just competition points up for grabs on Saturday as well. Support in the local community is split between the two clubs and getting bragging rights is a big deal.

“They’re not too far away from us and there is always the community split of who they support,” Leaupepetele says. “There is a lot on offer there other than being the Counties Power Game of the Week – there are bragging rights but also it is getting our name out there in the community.”