The Epic Return of the Culham Engineering U14 Taniwha Shield!

2023 saw the Culham Engineering Taniwha Shield return, this year the teams are made up of under 14 players. Five sub-unions entered into this years competition, with host’s Bay of Islands, neighbours to the West and North Hokianga and Mangonui along with Whangarei and a combined Northern Wairoa and Rodney team renamed Kaipara. 


The six day long tournament started on Friday 30th June under lights with Hokianga hosting Mangonui at Okaihau, Mangonui taking the win 45-15. At the other end of the Northland region Kaipara hosted Whangarei at Maungaturoto, Whangarei winning dominantly 30-0. Both games were played in very wet conditions with the risk of lightning being monitored by the Northland Rugby staff in attendance. Bay of Islands opened their account with a bye in the first round.


A day off on Saturday to rest and recover brought all 125 players to Kaikohe for a sunny opening ceremony on Sunday 2nd July. An excellent day of play saw Hokianga open their account with a great win 30-0 over a spiritied Kaipara team before the evening brought a blockbuster showdown between Bay of Islands and Mangonui, it was anyones game until the last 10 minutes when an intercept try saw Bay of Islands pull away, Mangonui hit back on full time but it wasn’t going to be enough, Bay of Islands claiming victory 31-22. Whangarei had the second round bye.


Monday saw the biggest day of the tournament, opening the day with a 9am development day, the Northland RDO’s along with some special guests took the players through specific drills and skills to help them improve and grow, it was awesome to have Semco Northland Taniwha Head Coach John Leslie and Assistant coach Matt Rolston in attendance to share their wisdom. 


A lunch break and a chance to catch their breath before round three kicked off with Mangonui playing Kaipara, a clear improvement from Kaipara saw them build phases and an emphasis on securing the breakdown made life hard for Mangonui, but through persistence they were able to pierce the Kaipara defence and run away with a 30-0 win. Taking them to the top of the leaderboard with 10 points. Game two saw an exciting match up between host’s Bay of Islands and Whangarei, Bay were on a high after toppling Mangonui the day before but the energy was quickly squashed through clinical play by the Whangarei team. Who took the match 30-7. Hokianga enjoyed a well earned rest with the bye. 


Day four saw our first short day of the tournament and also a change of venue, due to field conditions at Kaikohe, games were moved to Northland College, a decision that was widely celebrated post the days matches with a much drier track providing a good platform for running rugby and exciting play. First up with Mangonui taking on Whangarei, a win for Whangarei would have all but locked up the trophy race and a win for Mangonui would keep hopes alive for both Mangonui and Bay of Islands. Whangarei came out of the blocks early scoring two very good tries in the opening 10 minutes to take the lead to 10-0, Mangonui would hit back shortly after to narrow the score to 10-5, it looked likely to be the halftime score  until a break saw Mangonui score out wide and then kick the conversion to take the lead into halftime 12-10. The second half opened with a spell of good defence and unfortunate errors for both teams, Whangarei were the dominant team in the opening exchanges and they got the lead back with another well executed try on the right touchline. Over 20 minutes of back and forth rugby and missed opportunities saw both teams frustrated, with just over 4 minutes left on the clock Mangonui were to break through and seal the conversion to take the lead at 19-15, a nervous few minutes for both teams until the final whistle gave the win to Mangonui in what was the game of the tournament. Game two saw another great battle of neighbours with Bay of Islands exchanging blows with Hokianga in a good battle, Bay of Islands claimed the win 40-10. Kaipara enjoyed a well earned break.


Day five saw a day off of sorts for the teams, while they took a chance to enjoy some of the local tourist attractions around the Bay of Islands sub-union, Bay of Islands and Hokianga started their day at the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves at Waiomio, while Kaipara and Mangonui took in the tranquil Ngawha Springs to help with the aching bodies. Lunch was delivered and a quick toot as they passed each other on their way to their next stop with Whangarei joining Bay of Islands and Hokianga up at Ngawha and Mangonui and Kaipara checking out the Glow Worm Caves. Special shout out to both attractions for supporting this tournament and looking after our players. 


The afternoon and evening saw all teams come together for a tour through the Waitangi Treaty Grounds before walking together across the Waitangi bridge to Te Tii Marae for dinner and Korero around Matariki and the local area. Thank you to Ngati Kawa and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for hosting us and sharing your stories. 


Day six and the final round robin games again held at Northland College, Whangarei were in need of a bonus point to claim the shield, whereas a win without bonus point or loss would have set up a potential three way tie for champion. Whangarei opened the day versus a hungry and determined Hokianga, Whangarei built a good platform to lead 24-0 just after halftime, but you can never count the Hokianga out, a great try saw the energy lift and the belief was back, another try to Whangarei and then a response with conversion by the Hokianga saw the final score finish 34-12. Game two saw Bay of Islands take on Kaipara In the final game of the tournament, Kaipara put up a spirited fight and got close to score on more then a few occasions, but it wasn’t to be as the Bay of Islands took the win 30-0. 


A great six days was wrapped up back at the Kaikohe Rugby Clubrooms with Prizegiving. Special acknowledgements were given to those that had given tireless hours to the tournament not only during the week but also pre-tournament. Special mention to Paul Graham (NJC Chair) and Aimee Ruka (BOI Secretary) for their efforts along with the rest of the BOI committee for their support. 


A special award was given to Te Huirau Woodbury (Hokianga) who showed excellent sportsmanship throughout the tournament but above all else admirable leadership, Te Huirau opened our tournament with Karakia on Day two and then also spoke on behalf of the group at Te Tii Marae.


Northland Rugby also took time to acknowledge other players within the group that had shown great leadership, sportsmanship and play throughout the six days. This year no tournament team was announced due to the Development focus. 


Player of the Tournament, this year we are lucky to have Leo Palmer join the Northland Rugby Staff, Leo is a former winner of the Player of the Tournament trophy, this years player of the tournament was voted on by the NRU staff in attendance across the six days, the unanimous winner was JJ Herbert (Hokianga) whose ability on the field shone through in each game, his humble demeanour and work ethic was exemplary and the way that he supported his teammates win or lose was something that we are really proud of. Congratulations JJ.


And to the winners of the 2023 Taniwha Shield, Whangarei. Congratulations on an excellent tournament, a great build up and you carried yourselves well throughout the week. Congratulations to your management and supporters also for getting you across the line.


A special thank you to the many smiling faces that we saw throughout the tournament, rain or shine the sidelines were covered in supporters! 


This year we were lucky to have Culham Engineering back on board as Naming Sponsor – thank you to Rob Kirwan for his support and for making it up to some games throughout the tournament, we really appreciate your support.


Secondary Sponsor, New World Regent and New World Kaikohe, thank you to Eric and Joe for your sponsorship of our lunches throughout the week, it is important to keep the body fueled especially through some tough long days and you provided us with a great service. 


Thank you to Karen, our medic through the week, you did an excellent job and looked after the players on and off the field with a great duty of care. We really appreciate you. 


That wraps up the 2023 Taniwha Shield, now to review and reflect before the 2024 edition.


You can download photos from the tournament here πŸ‘‰

πŸ“Έ Photos by Aimee Ruka 


Team photos coming soon!

Article added: Wednesday 12 July 2023


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