Wairarapa-Bush have made an auspicious start to their 2015 Heartland championship rugby campaign.
They ran in four tries without reply to beat Thames Valley by a convincing 39-6 at Paeroa on Saturday, a result which means they have already scored the same number of wins as they did over the whole of last season’s Heartland programme.
Head coach Josh Syms was, however, keeping his own feet firmly on the ground despite being pleased his side had come out of their first championship fixture not only with a win but also a bonus point.
“Obviously it’s great to start off with a win but, at the end of the day, it’s only one game and we can’t afford to get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said. “There’s still plenty of scope for improvement and that’s what we’ve got to keep in mind.”
The Wairarapa-Bush forwards impressed with their solidity in the set pieces of scrum and lineout. And several of them also shone in general play, none more so than flanker Brendon Campbell who made several surging runs in attacking situations and was equally as prominent for his hard-nosed defence.
Lock James Goodger was a regular winner of lineout ball and was rewarded for his mobility in other facets of the forward game with two tries. Hooker Andrew Makalio and No8 So’otala Fa’oso’o were both powerful runners with ball in hand and were invariably at the head of the many short passing rushes which gained Wairarapa-Bush handy metres during the course of the game.
The ability of the Wairarapa-Bush backs, notably Tim Priest and Tipene Haira, to keep their forwards on the front foot, with judicious tactical kicking, played a big part in the end result.
Haira was a somewhat surprise selection on the wing, as he has played little rugby in that role, but he made a decent fist of it and was an outstanding second option for Priest whenever his team had to kick themselves out of trouble.
The biggest minus for Wairarapa-Bush was the lack of finish to their attacking movements, with basic handling and passing errors probably costing them as many tries as they scored.
“We have to be more clinical in that area, there will be games when we might get only two or three prime scoring chances and we need to be making the most of them,” Syms said.
James Goodger (2), Nick Olson and Inia Katia scored the tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Priest demonstrated his goal kicking skills by landing two conversions and four penalties for a personal tally of 16 points. Jonny Te Ruki kicked three penalties for Thames Valley.
In other Heartland championship matches on Saturday Buller beat King Country 32-20, Mid-Canterbury beat South Canterbury 34-17, Poverty Bay hammered East Coast 60-15, Wanganui edged out Horowhenua-Kapiti 39-34 and North Otago had just a solitary point to spare over West Coast, 17-16.
Next Saturday’s Wairarapa-Bush v North Otago match at Memorial Park, Masterton, will be of special significance because it will be the first Heartland match played on artificial turf and under lights.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age