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Make hay while Declan shines

Declan Hay feeding the Ories scrum against Poneke in their recent Jimmy Grbich Shield match.

  • By Adam Julian. 
  • Photos by Andy McArthur

The form of Oriental Rongotai in the last month of the Swindale Shield has been eye-catching and has put the rest of the competition on notice.

The Magpies have won five consecutive matches and this past Saturday defied horrid conditions at Nairnville Park to inflict defeat upon Old Boys University for the first time this season.

Halfback Declan Hay scored 17 of Ories 27 points in a landmark victory. With a round remaining Ories only have to beat winless Paremata-Plimmerton this weekend to guarantee a top four finish in the first round and a second life in the rejigged Jubilee Cup playoffs.

“The conditions were similar against Petone and we struggled to exit. We put a lot of work into that at training and the forwards did some extra lineout sessions,” Hay revealed.

“We got a bit of luck with the early Tuga Mativa try. Jason Tuitama went to clear the ball and OBU fullback Sam Reid partially charged it down putting everyone on side. Once Tuga got it nobody could stop him.

“Our forwards were outstanding. They really adjusted to the conditions and took their opportunities.”

Ories backs have been quick to take their opportunities. A dazzling display salvaged an unlikely win against Norths while Wellington, Poneke and Avalon were slayed. Hay, Mativa and centre Paulo Aukuso are the only regular starters over 25.

“A big reason for our success has been the youthful backline. If it’s on they’re always willing to have a crack whereas us older guys might be a bit more wearisome.

“Saia Paese has been a revelation since he moved to ten. It was a bit of a surprise to me when he did that, but he’s grown in confidence and driving the backline has become a shared responsibility.

“Our coaches Mason Malagamaali’i and Justin McCarthy have empowered us to trust our instincts and play what’s in front of us.”

Hay grew up in Newtown and attended St Patrick’s College, Wellington. He joined his older brother at Marist St Pat’s and helped the Reds to a Colts championship in 2011 and a Jubilee Cup a year later. However, he soon grew restless with the lack of game time. He played second fiddle to veteran Peter Sciascia.

“I moved to Johnsonville in 2015 because Mason Lawrence was coaching out there. Mason polarises a lot of people with what can appear to be harsh words but he always has his teams’ best interests at heart. He’s passionate and honest and that really appeals to me.

“I don’t want to blow my own horn but 2015 was a great season for me. We made it to the Hardham Cup final and narrowly lost to Upper Hutt. I then played for Horowhenua Kapiti which was a high.”

Lawrence and Hay moved to Ories in 2016 where Sean was now playing alongside Whetu Henty and Tuakana Metuarau who’d became great mates in the Wellington Maori.

Ories made the Jubilee Cup semis in 2016 and 2018. In fact, since 2011 Ories have won the same number of Swindale Shield games as OBU with 86, but only have one Jubilee Cup title compared with the students four. They have been semi-finalists eight times in a decade.

“OBU have been the pinnacle of club rugby for the last half a dozen years. We’re not the biggest club but our team has always thrived on the challenge of testing ourselves against the best and proving with limited resources we can still foot it against highly touted opposition.

“We always seem to be there or thereabouts. I think we have a great vibe this year after a few challenges in 2020. All the teams trained together at the start of the season and there is a really united spirit at the club.

“Our women always try to come and watch us if they have the earlier game. We really appreciate that. I reckon Ayesha Leti-I’iga could play for us,” Hay enthused.

The qualified electrician lives in Lower Hutt with his partner.

Below: Declan Hay scores his key second half try this past Saturday against OBU:

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