Rifles loaded for action-packed weekend

One of the highlights of the middleweight rugby calendar is set to rock into action on the weekend of September 14-15 2013.

The annual Barbarians northern region middleweight (Under 85kg) tournament, which has run since 2008, will again be held at Auckland’s College Rifles club on the acclaimed artificial turf.

Auckland may have dominated this always-competitive tournament in the early years, but the defending champions are the Wellington Centurions, who proved their worth with an unbeaten run in the 2012 event.

Coached by former Hawke’s Bay rep Greg Halford and Ian Tulloch, Wellington will field another strong line-up and are seeking to build on the burgeoning Under 85kg grade in the capital, where there are 20 teams across three divisions. Players to watch in the Centurions squad are centre Tony Natoli out of the Tawa Titans club side (the runners-up to Marist St Pat’s), fullback Matiu Welch and loose forward Jack Coles.

One of the features of the Waikato side is the selection of front-rower Gary Good of the Te Rapa club. He is 53! His son Lance is the player-backs coach of the Waikato team.

Thames Valley will again field a competitive side, though it will not be an Under 85kg unit, as the small union just does not have the numbers to cater for a middleweight grade. In effect, Thames Valley will be the union’s second XV or development side.
North Harbour, sponsored by Montys Promotions and Sue Mayhew (wife of Barbarian John) of Bayleys Real Estate Takapuna, is sure to be in the mix if it can free ball to exciting fullback/wing Texas Ngarongo-Porima and fellow flyer Hezekiah Bowlin.

In the Auckland side, many of whom are playing on their home ground, watch out for the experience of lock Brendan Lambert and first five Scott Thomson.

Tournament organiser and Barbarian Deano Allnutt, who is the North Harbour manager, says a number of premier grade club players are filtering into the middleweight rep sides, thus raising the standard. Many are aspiring to make the NZ Barbarians representative team, which would be their All Blacks jersey. Some of the players will no doubt head across town to the All Blacks-Springboks test at Eden Park later on Saturday night.

The games will be of 40 minutes duration, 20 minutes each way. After the final match on Sunday, the Barbarians selectors Wayne Underhay and Brett and Bryan Craies will select a tournament side which will have its photo in full Barbarians strip with a view to a possible tour or matches in 2014, hopefully following the unbeaten 2010 trailblazers.

The tournament controller is Barbarian Cliff Lyon, assisted by Scott Lacey.

The Barbarians club sees entry into weight restricted rugby as an integral part of its drive to foster amateur rugby. It is committed to continue pushing for a national competition as part of the NZRU calendar. This rep tournament is a solid base from which to grow this important and growing level of the game.

When: Saturday September 14-Sunday September 15
From: 11am (Saturday), 10.30am (Sunday)
Where: College Rifles Rugby Club, Auckland
For: NZ Barbarians Middleweight Cup
Teams (5): Auckland, North Harbour, Thames Valley, Waikato, Wellington Centurions