WAIRARAPA-Bush’s hopes of making it through to the semifinals of the premier section, the Meads Cup, in the 2015 Heartland rugby championship were dented when they came away empty handed from their match with South Canterbury at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday.
The 35-26 loss means Wairarapa-Bush now lie in sixth equal place on the competition table and face the prospect of having to win at least three of their four remaining games to reach their holy grail.
Disappointing as their latest loss was, it could have been worse. After racing out to an early 10-0 lead, the tight defence which had served Wairarapa-Bush so well in previous games suddenly deserted them – by half-time South Canterbury had capitalized, going to the break with a 22-10 advantage.
Such was the ease with which South Canterbury had broken through for their three tries in the 22nd, 32nd and 40th minutes that a second half blitz by the southerners looked likely. But to their credit, Wairarapa-Bush came out with greater resolve and clawed the scoreboard back to 32-26, at which stage an improbable victory to the home team was a real possibility.
In the end the main difference between the two sides was the ability of the South Canterbury backs to make good metres in their attacking raids. Generally it was a case of little more than slick passing and hard, straight running but they also opened up the Wairarapa-Bush defence – particularly in that second 20 minutes of the first half – with the odd sleight of hand and nifty footwork.
The Wairarapa-Bush backs, on the other hand, offered little in an attacking sense from set piece play. Certainly they received enough quality ball through the course of the game to strut their stuff but, try as they might, the lack of flair was all too obvious. First-five Tim Priest did make one jinky run which caused some excitement among the loyal band of supporters, but that was about it.
Then it was left to the Wairarapa-Bush forwards to not only carry the ball-winning responsibilities but also add that extra punch to the home team’s attacks. Lock James Goodger was a standout in both departments, leaping high to take down some clean lineout possession and showing dash and determination in broken play. Throw in some punishing tackles and his was a hugely impressive all-round performance.
Prop-cum-hooker Andrew Makalio and No8 So’otala Fa’aso’o were also prominent with ball in hand and scored their team’s three tries.
Prop Matt Kawana continued to show the promise which could see him become a regular feature in seasons ahead, while lock Johnie McFadzean was typically all hustle, and both openside flankers used, Rima Marurai and Chris Raymond, got through a power of work on attack and defence.
Erenimo Tau, Miles Medlicott, Kieran Coll and Rupeni Cokonasiga scored the South Canterbury tries and Jared Trevathen kicked three conversions and three penalties. Andrew Makalio and So’otala Fa’aso’o (2) scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Tim Priest kicked one conversion and three penalties.
In other Heartland matches, Wanganui beat Buller 35-9, Mid-Canterbury beat West Coast 36-26, Horowhenua-Kapiti edged out East Coast 24-20, King Country beat Thames Valley 47-12 and North Otago defeated Poverty Bay 30-23.
Wairarapa-Bush will play West Coast in Greymouth next Saturday and their other preliminary round games are against Horowhenua-Kapiti (home), East Coast (away) and Wanganui (home).
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age