Taranaki Daily News
Article avant match
Former All Blacks loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula will make his first appearance for Taranaki this season in Whangarei on Wednesday night as his side look to build on an impressive opening win in the National Provincial Championship.
Sowakula, who leaves at the end of the competition to take up a contract in France, had been on leave following the New Zealand XV tour of Japan as he missed Taranaki’s 37-29 win over Counties Manukau at Yarrow Stadium on Friday night.
His return will add some much-needed size to Taranaki’s ball carrying up front as the side continue to improvise in the second row, with Jesse Parete the only specialist lock named in the squad to face Northland.
Hemopo Cunningham partners Parete at lock after he started at blindside on Friday night with Heiden Bedwell-Curtis dropping to the bench.
Taranaki coach Neil Barnes has made five changes to the starting XV, with Ricky Riccitelli and Reuben O’Neill coming into the front row, while Josh Jacomb starts at first five-eighth with Vereniki Tikoisolomone picked on the left wing.
Barnes said the squad came through the opening match with no major injury concerns as he looked to rotate some key positions with three games scheduled in the opening 10 days of the competition.
“We’re pretty pleased with where we are at the moment, although we’ve still got a problem at lock,” he said.
That problem could be helped significantly with the availability of Josh Lord after he missed selection in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad, although Barnes revealed the 2.02 metre lock was struggling slightly with a shoulder knock he sustained in Taranaki’s pre-season win over Wellington.
Aside from that, Barnes was reasonably happy with the opening match at Yarrow Stadium as he continued to bed in a new game plan which centred on Taranaki being able to attack from more areas of the field while being more physical on defence.
“We are trying to play a game that is very fast and open, but it will involve mistakes,” he said.
“We made mistakes against Counties, but they will be a real handful for any side, so I was rapt to get five points out of that game.”
While delighted with the form of Jayson Potroz at first five-eighth in the opener, Barnes said it was important to give Jacomb a chance, especially after he played so well throughout the club season.
“I want to see him get out there and show what he’s got because if he comes up good we will have two good 10s available, as well as Stephen Perofeta.”
Meanwhile, Taranaki Rugby have announced a one-year high performance partnership with Japanese Top League club Shimizu Koto Blue Sharks.
The deal would see coaches and management staff from both sides immerse themselves in each camp over both the New Zealand and Japanese competitions.
Taranaki: Stephen Perofeta, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Meihana Grindlay, Teihorangi Walden, Vereniki Tikoisolomone, Josh Jacomb, Logan Crowley, Pita Gus Sowakula, Tom Florence, Kaylum Boshier, Hemopo Cunningham, Jesse Parete, Reuben O’Neill, Ricky Riccitelli, Jared Proffit. Reserves, Bradley Slater, Kyle Stewart, Mitch O’Neill, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Millennium Sanerivi, Adam Lennox, Matty McKenzie, Willem Ratu.
Article après match
At Northland Events Centre, Whangārei: Taranaki 28 (Stephen Perofeta, Jared Proffit, Kaylum Boshier 2 tries; Josh Jacomb 4 con) Northland 13 (Jonah Mau'u try; Daniel Hawkins 1 con, 2 pen) HT: 14-10.
Sin binned: Brady Rush 15th min
Forgotten All Black Pita Gus Sowakula and Kaylum Boshier have helped power Taranaki to a 28–13 bonus point victory over Northland on Wednesday night.
Despite an error-ridden performance from Taranaki, they were able to see off a determined Northland in a low-quality National Provincial Championship match to close out the opening round.
Sowakula, making his first appearance for Taranaki this season, was strong on the carry and defensively all night long from the back of the scrum and standout flanker Boshier picked up from where he left off in the victory over Counties Manukau at the weekend.
Boshier, who was seemingly everywhere in broken play, in addition to getting through his usual hefty workload at the breakdown, scored another two tries backing up from his brace at the weekend.
In other performances that might have interested All Blacks coach Ian Foster, fringe All Black Stephen Perofeta made a couple of classy touches but didn’t have quite the impact on the game that he would have hoped for, at fullback for Taranaki, before being replaced with 17 minutes to play.
And former All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue had some strong touches on both sides of the ball for Northland in a backline that didn’t get much front-foot ball.
Northland were brave in defeat, most especially when they defended 21 phases on their own line late in the second half but in reality, Taranaki only had themselves to blame for not winning by a bigger margin.
Openside flanker Jonah Mau'u, who was named to start on the bench but got a late call-up for Saimoni Uluinakauvadra, opened the scoring after pouncing on his own charge down from an attempted Perofeta clearing kick.