It wouldn’t have been the result that they wanted, but Farriers Wairarapa-Bush can be well pleased with their performance against Manawatu Development at Trust House Memorial Park in Masterton this evening.
Beaten 33-17 by a reasonably polished opposition, Wairarapa-Bush showed a huge improvement on their effort the previous week.
Playing with more urgency, they were organised in defence and creative on attack. Although giving up five tries – three in the space of ten minutes – the home team were every bit Manawatu’s equal.
While perhaps not the athlete he once was, former All Black Piri Weepu showed his class. His speed of pass, decision making and also defence was a treat for the amateur game. Playing the first half at half-back, he switched to first-five eighth in the second before calling it a day with 20-minutes still to play.
Tim Priest was sound at ten, and his combination with Weepu looks certain to continue when Wairarapa-Bush kick-off their Heartland Championship campaign against Wanganui next weekend.
Also putting his hand up for a starting XV spot will be Robbie Anderson. Playing at centre, Anderson was fearless in the tackle and hunted for work all evening. His try late in the match was just rewards for an outstanding game.
Prominent too was open-side flanker Chris Raymond, living up to his top billing as the best club player in the province in 2017.
Under the pump for much of the first quarter, Wairarapa-Bush worked their way back into the game, and with an Eddie Cranston try and Priest penalty went to the break 10-7 ahead.
But they weren’t to stay in front for long with the visitors running in three quick tries early in the second half.
Clearly coach Joe Harwood wasn’t putting much emphasis on the final score, opting to give his full squad of 23-players a run. Six changes were made at the start of the second half, one was forced following what looked to be a serious injury to Nick Olson.
Along with Anderson, wingers Soli Malatai and Nikora Ewe took their opportunities, both making a couple of good breaks each. Cranston and fellow loosie BJ Campbell worked hard, and with Raymond seemingly everywhere, Wairarapa-Bush has a very handy loose forward trio.
James Pakoti demonstrated just how valuable a player he is going to be, starting at hooker but capable of playing at both tight-head and loose-head prop. Props Nick Hohepa and Jacko Hull were good value.
The set pieces were good, and considering the size of some of the Manawatu boys, Wairarapa-Bush will be pretty happy with how they measured up. Still to chalk up a win in 2017, all that matters is that they can do so when it really counts, against Wanganui at Cook’s Gardens next Saturday.