WAIRARAPA-BUSH rugby coach Josh Syms was not reading the riot act after his team’s 55-3 loss to a Wellington XV in the Jimmy Cotter Memorial Trophy match played at Memorial Park.
Just the opposite in fact.
In what was the first serious hit-out for his extended 36-man squad last Tuesday, Syms saw enough positives to suggest Wairarapa-Bush will be a force to be reckoned with as the 2015 season progresses.
“It was hugely beneficial and, quite honestly, I thought the guys acquitted themselves very well,” Syms said.
“It was always going to be tough considering the lack of preparation and the quality of opposition but we were definitely not disgraced.”
While the Wellington line-up, which included five players who have turned out for the Hurricanes at Super 15 level this year, scored 19 points in the last nine minutes to top the half-century mark, Syms was impressed with the tenacity of the Wairarapa defence.
“Internally, we didn’t miss a lot of tackles, we were actually pretty solid in that department.”
Syms was “happy enough” with the set piece of scrum and lineout but conceded there was work to do in many areas, particularly organisation on attack.
“Obviously we have to be more potent in our attacking play but none of the negatives can’t be fixed by good coaching, and that’s up to me, isn’t it? I’m confident enough that the talent is there, it’s just a matter of pointing them in the right direction.”
Of the players used against the Wellington XV, all but three play their club rugby in Wairarapa, the exceptions being midfielder Matt Dalley, wing Ryan Saunders and prop Rae Mania. Dalley from Palmerston North and Saunders from Wellington both have strong Wairarapa connections. Dalley played for Rathkeale College and Saunders for Featherston, while Wellington-based Mania was a late addition because of injuries suffered by a couple of other front rowers initially chosen in the squad.
The likelihood is Dalley and Saunders will be retained over the rest of the season but whether Mania’s selection will be a “oncer” remains to be seen.
Several of the relative newcomers to the representative scene who took the field last Tuesday did well enough to suggest they will be in the running for selection when Wairarapa-Bush take on Hawke’s Bay for the Ranfurly Shield on July 9 and then go on to the Heartland championship.
Marist prop Terry Norman was one who grabbed the opportunity to push his case and the same goes for Greytown lock Gareth van Dalen and Martinborough inside back Tipene Haira.
Of the more experienced campaigners to take the eye, perhaps the most impressive were Greytown first-five Byron Karaitiana, Gladstone lock Andrew McLean and the two players who shared the captaincy duties, Carterton utility forward Johnie McFadzean and Greytown prop Kurt Simmonds. Also notable was the return of gun Marist loosie James Goodger, who missed most of last season’s campaign through injury.
Among those not available for this particular match but sure to be considered for the Ranfurly Shield encounter were forwards Lachie McFadzean and Kieran O’Brien and back Tim Priest, the latter now playing for Martinborough after starring for West Coast in Heartland action last year.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age