8 Apr 2024

Coach speaks on car chase, gun shots after Hawke's Bay rugby game

11:27 am on 8 April 2024
Club rugby shooting: YMP's team van was badly damaged by shotgun pellets after they left their abandoned game against Tamatea at Bill Matheson Park in Hastings.

Police are investigating after shots were fired at the rugby team's van in Hastings over the weekend. Photo: NZ Herald / Supplied

A rugby coach has described shotgun blasts, a dramatic car chase, vehicles being rammed and gang involvement after supporters attacked a player during a rugby game.

The match between Tamatea and Young Māori Party (YMP) on Saturday was abandoned early due to safety concerns, but YMP's van encountered trouble after it left.

The Hastings YMP was established in 1956 and is not related to the political organisation Te Pāti Māori or the Young Māori Party rugby club based in Gisborne.

YMP team coach Guy Taylor was in the driver's seat at the time and said the van was rammed as well as shot at.

What happened during the game

Taylor told Morning Report after halftime, "the make-up of the Tamatea team changed considerably and a large crowd of Mongrel Mob had turned up".

His understanding of what triggered the incident was a "heavy tackle on a Tamatea player, which seems to insinuate somehow we were responsible - that I believe is a smokescreen".

"What actually happened was, because we had the ball at the time, we were the ones getting tackled and our winger was tackled near the sideline and one of the spectators ran onto the field and kicked him in the head."

Taylor believed some people did not like YMP because they had links to Black Power.

Asked if this incident was gang-affiliated, he said: "Yes, I suppose so. A minority of our players are in the Black Power."

However, he defended the team saying it was made of a diverse community.

"And anyone who wants to play rugby can. We turn up wearing our YMP colours, nothing else, and we don't go looking for trouble, we just want to play rugby. The kaupapa for the day is rugby and we enjoy it."

Taylor said he spoke with the referee to ask the Tamatea to tell their supporters to move away from the sideline.

"The ref said that he had no choice but to call the game off, which I believe was the right decision, because weapons were being displayed on the sideline.

"With all that intimidation stuff, my team itself acted very calmly, didn't react at all, so we ended up shaking hands with the Tamatea team and headed to the changing rooms, at which point one of our players was attacked by one of the opposing players, that got broken up."

After that, the teams' management shared some food and beer, surrounded by "people milling around outside, sort of trying to provoke us",Taylor said.

Hawke's Bay area commander Inspector Lincoln Sycamore said police were called to a disorder incident at the game.

Police are also investigating a gun attack on the van.

"We had wives and children there, so it wasn't a good look," Taylor said.

So the decision was made to leave.

What happened on the road

As they were driving out of Hastings, he said a car behind ran a red light trying to keep up with them.

"Then a white truck pulls out in front of us trying to stop our progress, at which point it ensued 10 to 15 minutes of rather hectic driving around Hastings, during which we were tackling the other van whilst nearly blown up by a shotgun - and we were rammed from the side."

Inside the van, everyone was saying: "Don't stop," he said, describing the atmosphere as calm.

"We did break a few traffic rules," he said.

"I was trying to think how to get out of this, by this stage, there were four vehicles chasing us."

He was able to turn the van around and return to Bill Mathewson Park, where he knew there was a police presence.

The occupants of the car chasing the YMP van were also at the game, Taylor said.

He said he received a text from the Tamatea management apologising.

As for another game between Tamatea and YMP, it would have be on neutral ground, Taylor said.

"We've got a good team, the boys are training well, and we just want to carry on playing. Some situations will need to be handled differently by the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union."

Investigation into Tamatea

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chief executive Jay Campbell said it was receiving reports of the incident from YMP, Tamatea, the referee and police, and would look at facts "to know what occurred".

He said Tamatea was hosting the game and had not followed protocol.

"It's their responsibility to ensure they've got ground control, this obviously wasn't the case."

Campbell said HBRU would work with Tamatea about hosting future games.

"We're opening an investigation on what and how Tamatea did and didn't do, and how we can assist them when and if they host a game again."

On Sunday, Tamatea Rugby & Sports Club chairperson Stewart Whyte said on social media the club did not support gangs or have an association with gangs.

He said the incident "involved gang members who are not associated with Tamatea and are not members of our club".