CANTERBURY-STACKED SCORPIONS GEAR UP FOR NATIONAL 20s FINAL
South Island Scorpions have carved a dominant path to Saturday’s NZRL National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup final – and the Canterbury influence on the team’s outstanding undefeated campaign so far is palpable.
The Scorpions, who come under Southern Zone Rugby League’s umbrella, powered through round-robin play this month in sizzling style, defeating Waikato Mana 46-8 in their Ngāruawāhia opener, putting Wellington Orcas to the sword 58-6 at Ngā Puna Wai and outlasting Auckland heavyweights Counties Manukau Stingrays 38-24 at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Waikato was forced to forfeit its semi-final against South Island, setting up a rematch with Counties Manukau in the decider. The Stingrays edged out Akarana Falcons in the other semi.
Fourteen of the 17 Scorpions players named for the Pukekohe-hosted final come from Canterbury clubs: six from Linwood Keas, three from Hornby Panthers, two each from Halswell Hornets and Eastern Eagles, and one from Marist Saints’ 2022 ranks.
The line-up also includes one player from Greymouth Greyhounds, who compete in CRL’s ISC Canterbury Cup competition, and two players based in Otago (one from West Coast, one from Auckland).
“Seeing the majority of this team coming from Canterbury clubs is of real excitement and an acknowledgement of the work clubs in our region do,” Canterbury Rugby League CEO Malcolm Humm says.
Meanwhile, the Scorpions’ staff are all highly regarded members of the Canterbury Rugby League community.
Coach Archie Jacobs (Eastern Eagles) and assistant coaches Kevin Te Hau (Halswell Hornets) and Brendon Rosie (Hornby Panthers) harbour strong club links and bring vast experience to their Scorpions roles. Manager Mel Tukapua, trainer Lee Paru-Mou and physio Tovia Fui – tireless servants for junior and senior representative rugby league – hold the same positions for the New Era Glazing Canterbury Bulls, while trainer Grant Downing is also Christchurch-based.
“Ultimately it is coaching that supports getting these young players to this level and make a national grand final,” Humm adds.
“We know clubs in the Canterbury region strive to support their players with quality coaching and this is recognition of that commitment.
“Archie Jacobs, Kevin Te Hau and Brendon Rosie are stalwart Canterbury coaches who have come through our systems, so it is great to see what they are achieving at national level as well.”
Many of the Scorpions’ Canterbury contingent have already featured prominently at senior level on the club and representative scenes.
Back-rower Uriah Tuli won the Mel Cooke Trophy as player of the match in the Keas’ epic 2022 CRL premiership grand final victory over a Panthers side that also featured Scorpions half Caleb Murphy. Tuli went on to represent the New Era Glazing Canterbury Bulls during the subsequent NZRL National Premiership campaign.
Winger Jayton Lawrie got a taste of the premier grade for Hornby in 2022 – playing alongside his dad, Panthers and Bulls great Corey – while fullback Jacob Nyman was a prolific tryscorer in Halswell’s Massetti Cup campaign that ended in the preliminary final and Sakiusa Lomanikaya featured in Linwood’s Canterbury Cup grand final win.
Nyman leads the Scorpions’ pointscoring charts in 2023 with 28, kicking 12 goals in the opening two games and scoring a try against the Stingrays, a match that saw Murphy take over the goalkicking. Eagles winger Noah Saukuru, who has dotted down in each match, is the Scorpions’ top tryscorer in this campaign alongside Keas duo Izyah Hesp and Te Kaio Cranwell with three.
Panthers prop Jaedon Wellington collected player of the match honours in the big win over the Orcas at Ngā Puna Wai, with Dunedin-based Coaster Callum Donaldson the MVP in the other two victories.
NZRL NATIONAL 20s RUBEN WIKI CUP FINAL
SOUTH ISLAND SCORPIONS V COUNTIES MANUKAU STINGRAYS
12:10pm (NZT), Saturday 1st April @ Navigation Homes Park, Pukekohe
South Island Scorpions
1 Jacob Nyman (Halswell Hornets)
2 Saki Loma (Linwood Keas)
3 Deijdre Siaki (Eastern Eagles)
4 Izyah Hesp (Linwood Keas)
5 Noah Saukuru (Eastern Eagles)
6 Mac Gibson (Greymouth Greyhounds)
7 Caleb Murphy (Hornby Panthers)
8 Cooper Te Hau (Halswell Hornets)
9 Noah Harmer-Campbell (unattached – Marist Saints 2022)
10 Jaedon Wellington (Hornby Panthers)
11 Te Kaio Cranwell (Linwood Keas)
12 Uriah Tuli (Linwood Keas)
13 Callum Donaldson (Otago-based Greymouth player)
16 Jaydyn Hoeta (Linwood Keas)
17 Jayton Lawrie (Hornby Panthers)
18 Tetauru Cuthers (Otago-based Auckland player)
21 Revelation Mumuta (Linwood Keas)
Coach: Archie Jacobs
Assistant coach: Kevin Te Hau
Assistant coach: Brendon Rosie
Manager: Mel Tukapua
Trainers: Lee Paru-Mou, Grant Downing
Physio: Tovia Fui
Photo Credit: New Zealand Rugby League