The halfway point in the ITM Cup came and went over the weekend with Canterbury playing with all the precision of the Hyundai assembly line, the Turbos getting a first win, and Tasman making it 5-0 to start the year with a second half feast against the Lions.
With the Makos taking on their bogey team, North Harbour (yes, Harbour is actually a bogey team) this evening, we update the ITM Cup power rankings ahead of the week six kick off.
1. The TMO
The undisputed stars of week five for all the wrong reasons. Not one, not two, not three, but four glorious botch ups from the television match officials. Ah ha ha ha ha ha! No one is saying it’s an easy job. But maybe the minimum qualification should be above, ‘can wear a track suit, and watch television’.
2. Rob Thompson, Canterbury
Rob Thompson was straight up great against Hawkes Bay in week five. The big midfielder was on the score-sheet in the opening two minutes when he ran into a yawning chasm in the Magpies’ defensive line and proceeded to step Ihaia West and leave Shannan Chase sprawling. He could have had another in the first half but his midfield partner Ryan Crotty made a rare mistake and plain got in the way.
Hard to believe the 24-year old had to head south when he couldn’t make the Turbos roster a few years back, but not hard to believe that the Super Rugby franchises are sniffing around Rugby Park…
3. The Hira Bhana Potato Man
Everyone got potatoes! You got potatoes, they got potatoes – the whole damn crowd got a bag of potatoes. A bag of potatoes! Mash them, chip them, thinly slice and cover with butter and milk for a delicious Gratin! The potato is the king of root vegetables. Kumara does not even enter the conversation. Plus, nothing says sponsorship leverage like a man-sized potato stalking the sidelines of Eden Park. This could be the greatest mascot since Wairarapa Bush’s Rory the Stag. Just, less drunk. We raise a rip and dip can of Wattie’s Tomato Sauce to you, Hira Bhana Potato Man.
4. Semisi Masirewa, Manawatu Turbo
He ran for 159 metres against the Taniwha, and now leads the competition in metres and clean breaks. It’s tempting to credit Northland’s defence for this, but we won’t.
5. Tim Boys’ Hair, Southland Stag
We could talk about the fact he has made more than 20 tackles more than the next best defender in the competition this season. Or we could talk about how he was ignored for Super Rugby duty this season and instead returned to his mowing business in Invercargill. We could even talk about the fact he is just an all-round good man. But we won’t.
Instead we will talk about his outstanding Southland mane, which inevitably ends up as matted and filthy as the coat on an abandoned farm dog. Boys’ hair is undeniably the source of all his power, which is not insignificant when playing for a team that defends. A lot. Only once in his pro career can we remember Boys cutting his hair, and we pray he never cuts it again.
6. Naulia Dawai, Otago
If his double against Taranaki in the undisputed come-from-behind victory of the season back in week three wasn’t enough to etch Dawai’s name into the breeze block wall of the Groundskeeper’s dug out, then his hat trick against Auckland sealed the deal.
Dawai, in his second season in Otago colours, has been a wrecking ball from the bench this season and while his three tries weren’t enough to secure a rare Eden Park victory for Dunedin’s finest, he can at least lay claim to being just the fourth man in NPC history to score a hat trick at Eden Park.
Even better, Dawai’s five tries this season have been scored from a combined five running metres.
7. Brad Weber, Waikato
The wee man from Hawkes Bay via Dunedin is arguably pound-for-pound the most entertaining thing in the whole damn competition. When he’s not making unreal defensive plays against Auckland, he’s throwing straight arms into the face of large prop forwards from Southland.
Never mind that Jamie Mackintosh took instant revenge by burying Weber’s face in the Waikato Stadium turf, watching Weber leap from the deck to fish hook Whoppa was a sheer joy. Weber is perfect as a captain, and for resting a pint on.
8. This dude with a sign, Westpac Stadium
Here at The Spinoff Sports, we don’t mind an accurate quote, well used. And this young man has it dead right. How can you not have a man-crush on Tasman’s Marty Banks? Marty Banks is leading the golden boot race yet again. How can a Screech-lookalike from Reefton who cut his teeth in Siberian Rugby and made his name playing for Buller be leading the ITM Cup golden boot race again? Because Banks is here to give every battler hope, that’s how.
9. North Harbour’s Commemorative Jersey
In the words of the Beige Brigade, “It’s about passion, not fashion”, and Harbour showed plenty of one and absolutely zero of the other in defeating the Steelers 28-20 in week five. The CCC ‘ugly’ was a staple of the late-80’s rugby fan’s wardrobe, an homage to the Wombilian notion of ‘making good use of the things that we find’ – in this case the cut offs from the clothing manufacturers factory floor.
The CCC Ugly was perfect for every occasion: All Blacks training, Sunday barbeques, even a family night out at Cobb & Co. We say let Harbour play in this strip always and forever.
10. Charlie Ngatai, Taranaki
Signs of life from old Koro Cooper’s men this week in Rotorua, and the pulse was strongest in New Zealand Maori Captain Charlie Ngatai who was at his classy best in the hard-fought victory over Bay of Plenty.
It’s hard to imagine a player more important to his team than Charlie Ngatai is to Taranaki right now.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.