Ethan Roots and Harbour Rugby ready for Ranfurly Shield challenge

Ethan Roots and Harbour Rugby ready for Ranfurly Shield challenge
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 08: The Ranfurly Shield is seen during the round 5 Mitre 10 Cup match between Otago and Taranaki at Forsyth Barr Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Along with his teammates, Ethan Roots and Harbour Rugby are ready for a ‘surprise’ Ranfurly Shield challenge, coinciding with Week 10 of the Mitre 10 Cup.

A surprise, due to the recent victory by Canterbury over shield holders Otago. It then catapulted [North] Harbour into a key position. The final challenger of the 2019 season is always an exciting match-up. Anything is possible, and both Harbour Rugby and players like Ethan Roots, know that this is an opportunity.

Not one that arises often. So for a player in his debut national provincial championship, and a team who have everything to play for to remain in contention for the Premiership playoffs, this Sunday afternoon is a key fixture.

Ethan Roots and Harbour Rugby ready for Ranfurly Shield challenge

The visitors heading down to Canterbury, in what is as much a knockout match. Play well, win or even collect a losing bonus point, would help them to maintain a high standing on the ladder. But the win is always the target in sport, and one that every player can agree on.

East Coast Bays club representative Ethan Roots (see above image) is a player on the rise. One his team management believes has had a terrific 2019 season. When asked, Roots confided to Last Word on Rugby, “For my first season I think I’ve been chipping away nicely. Kind of inconsistent, and to be honest it’s all just been a big learning curve for me. One game at a time, but pretty happy overall.”

Still growing into his position, elevated from the Under 19 and Harbour B sides, now up into the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership team – a leap of faith by team management and coaches for 2019. Kieran Keane has made his mark on the squad through his selections, as much as his traditional qualities.

“He’s old school. we appreciate that, he’s straight up, he’s honest. You’ll never die wondering what he thought of you. That’s been good for the team this season, he’s done a lot of good things for the union. No, I got nothing but time for that guy”, which shows that the former Tasman and Connacht coach has had a positive impact on the players.

Kieran Keane
North Harbour coach Kieran Keane during the round 6 Mitre 10 Cup match between Tasman and North Harbour (Photo by Evan Barnes/Getty Images)

Now that faith will need to be repaid when Roots and the Harbour team travel to Christchurch. They will face the multi-time Provincial Champions on home turf. And the Ranfurly Shield challenge is the proverbial ‘cherry on the top’.

Shield challenge caps off excellent debut year for Ethan Roots

Roots has started in every match for Harbour this year, and that says more about his development and desire to improve. He told LWOR that some highlights were that brilliant start to open the season; a draw against champions Auckland. And then his enjoyment in coming up against name-players in Mitre 10 Cup competition.

“Facing real tough opponents, like Vaea Fifita with Wellington, and Liam Squire and Jordan Taufua. When we played Tasman, that was quite cool seeing the top, elite rugby players in New Zealand.”

Those steps for new names is where those individuals can test themselves. Harbour defeated Wellington, and will want to carry on from the wins over Southland and Manawatu, when they line-up Canterbury in a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

The need for new players was essential, after players leaving for Europe, longterm injuries to Bryn Gatland, and Glenn Preston [a loose forward]. Keane and his coaching staff promoted no less than 13 players in this Harbour squad from club rugby, which is a pleasing move for names like Ethan Roots. it continues their development with the union, where Harbour assistant coach Sam Ward plays a big role.

And playing beside senior men like co-captain Matt Duffie, and Super Rugby winning halfback, Bryn Hall, is a plus. On Sunday afternoon, the entire group will have to reach their peak, to remove the ‘Log of Wood’ from Canterbury. And, to move on to the playoffs in a winning mindset.

Canterbury v Harbour – Sunday, October 13. 4:35pm, Christchurch

This outcome could bring flashbacks for Harbour fans. One of the union’s proudest days was achieved in 2006. In a result that took the entire NZ rugby public by surprise, the ‘little guy’ outpunched the powerful Canterbury side. Yet while that was superseeded recently by the unions Championship win, and elevation to division one status, on Sunday the motivation of another Ranfurly Sheld challenge could be vital inspiration.

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Other key matches in Mitre 10 Cup Week 10

With the final standings still finely balanced, the Canterbury v Harbour game is only one key match-up. That begins on Friday and only ends at 6:15pm Sunday night.

Friday – Auckland v Taranaki; the implication for Auckland is that their destiny is not in their control. A disastrous first half of the season could possibly be repaired after they gained a bonus-point win, 35-11.

Now, if Harbour lose, it could play into their neighbours hands. Although, they will not be the same threat that the province certainly were in 2018.

Saturday – Match of the Round: Hawke’s Bay v Tasman Mako

This one fixture has no bearing on the other’s division. Tasman are leading the Premiership, Hawke’s Bay were the top team in the Championship. Bay of Plenty leapfrogged them, after defeating Southland. So the Magpies will wish to correct that – conversely, the Mako cannot be overhauled, and so it will take more for them to be motivated for this match.

The sides style is similar, although, with more star players like Will Jordan and Andrew Makalio (see above image), most will favour Tasman to travel north and secure theirΒ  10th straight win…..on target, for an unbeaten 2019 season.

But, you cannot discount Hawke’s Bay home town advantage.

Saturday – Wellington v Waikato; a result that will do little for the Waikato side, than to restore pride. A young team, missing senior players and even 100-cap Dwayne Sweeney is finding it hard to inspire. While on the other hand, the hosts can confirm a home semifinal in their first year back in the Premiership.

If the Lions do end up victorious, it will be a huge boost to the region. Also, to rebound from their loss against Harbour, will show their resolve in 2019.

Each of the seven games is important, for different reasons. But in the end, there can only be four teams reaching the semifinals stages. So for men like Ethan Roots; his first taste of knockout rugby, it will be memorable and extremely rewarding.

 

“Main photo credit”
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