Awanui crowned 2022 Mangonui Rugby Sub Union champions

Kaitaia Rugby Club player Puru Aboagye receiving the EJ Thompson Mangonui Player of the Year Taonga for 2022, followed by a rousing haka. Photo/Myjanne Jensen

There was a jam-packed weekend of sport in Kaitaia, with the Mangonui Rugby Sub Union Grand Finals drawing a large crowd to Arnold Rae Park on Saturday.

Awanui and Eastern United battled it out in a tight game, resulting in Awanui taking out the 2022 Mangonui Rugby Champions thanks to a 29-20 win.

This year’s newly crowned winners ended the 2022 season with a trifecta of wins, taking out The Bell Shield, the North Zone Shield and the Hart Cup.

The curtainraiser to the grand final was the U16s semi-final match between Kaitaia and Kaikohe, which Kaitaia won.

The Kaitaia team will now go on to the grand final, to play against Horahora at 12 noon this Saturday at Arnold Rae Park.

Awanui assistant coach Rob Akuhata said he was pleased with his players’ performance on Saturday and said the grand final had been a good, clean game.

He said it had been their best game of the season and credited his team’s level of fitness as the key to their win.

“Our discipline was really good today, really focused and unfortunately we had good players on the side who couldn’t play,” Akuhata said.

“We played like a team today and it was great to see how the boys bonded and gelled and came with a whole different mindset.

“Our training has been really good this season as we did a lot of fitness and running, circuits, etc, so I think our boys’ level of fitness was just higher.”

Eastern United captain Mitch Jurlina said while it was disappointing that his team didn’t win, it was a good game and he appreciated the tough competition.

He thanked the club’s sponsors and supporters and said he looked forward to next season.

“It was a bloody battle out there today, but I want to congratulate Awanui on the win,” Jurlina said.

“It was always going to be a hard one and this time it ended up in their favour.

“I hope you (Awanui) can stick together and carry on next year.

“To our boys, there’s always next year and well done for a good season. We’ll come back again stronger.”

Mangonui Rugby Sub Union president and chairman, Mate Radich, hosted the end-of-season prizegiving ceremony at the Kaitaia Rugby Club on Saturday night.

Players, their friends and whānau as well as supporters from the various rugby clubs turned out for the event to celebrate a solid season of rugby.

This included the naming of the EJ Thompson Memorial Trophy, the Ian King Memorial Shield and the Bell Shield.

Kaitaia Rugby Club player Puru Aboagye received the EJ Thompson Mangonui Player of the Year Taonga for 2022, to which he received a rousing haka from fellow players.

Jurlina received the Ian King Memorial Shield on behalf of Eastern United and the Bell Shield went to Awanui Rugby Club.

Radich said both Eastern United and Awanui had put up a good fight and showed the true spirit of the game.

“It was a bloody great game, tit for tat the whole way and they were definitely the best two teams of the year,” Radich said.

“Awanui had a strong bench, with two of their Fijian players playing exceptionally, so I think today their hard work paid off.

“It was also a great day for Mangonui Rugby Sub Union because there was a good local crowd who turned up to support their teams.”

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