Photo John Morin D8791-303

Eastern Bay player Kurt Baker (Paroa) is tackled by two Ngati Porou East Coast players at Rugby Park on Saturday. Eastern Bay went on to win 26-17 in a tough encounter.

THE home side was too strong in Saturday’s match between the Eastern Bay and Ngati Porou East Coast.

Played at Rugby Park in Whakatane, the game attracted a good crowd and was, as expected, a tough encounter for both sides.

With both sides finishing club rugby only two weeks ago it was a great display of skills, with the Eastern Bay leading 17-7 at half time.

Led by Te Oranga Headifen from Te Teko, the Eastern Bay went on to win the match 26-17.

Eastern Bay coach Anthony Studer, who was Te Teko premier two head coach, said the highlight was having eight out of the 10 Eastern Bay clubs represented with players.

Another highlight was the prestigious Basil Simpson Trophy being presented to Eastern Bay’s Kevin Waterson.

Last time the two sides met, the trophy was presented to the East Coast side, despite it being a draw, by Basil Simpson, who recently passed away.

Studer said the renewed interest in the Eastern Bay senior men’s rep side was due to the efforts of Paroa senior men’s coach Rikki Horlock, who “had worked hard to get a lot of the clubs involved, not only player-wise, but also the coaches”.

For Studer, the win against the Ngati Porou East Coast side was definitely a positive way to finish the season, along with the three titles won by Eastern Bay clubs including the premier two title for Te Teko, the division one and two titles for Paroa and Edgecumbe respectively.

For Ngati Porou East Coast, the game will not only dent their pride, but also their starting line-up after a red card incident that will see a player standing down for the next game at least.

The visitors may have rued that their team was short of their 2019 star, with the signing of 10-test wing, All Black number 1097, Zac Guildford.

To the delight of East Coast coach Wayne Ensor, Guildford has signed with the side for the Heartland Championship and will debut for the East Coast when they play the Bay of Plenty Maori Development in a pre-season game at Rotorua this Saturday.