WAIRARAPA-BUSH skipper Tim Priest is hoping history repeats itself when his team challenge Hawke’s Bay for the Ranfurly Shield in Napier tomorrow.
Just two seasons back the 27-year-old was part of a West Coast side trailing Nelson-Bays 12-11 going into the closing stanzas of a Seddon Shield fixture.
Having not won this trophy, which symbolises supremacy between the Nelson-Bays, Marlborough, Buller and West Coast unions, for 38 years West Coast were throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at their much more vaunted opposition but those vital points wouldn’t come.
Then with time almost up the diminutive Priest etched himself into West Coast rugby folklore, calmly slotting a dropped goal from about 30m out to give his team a shock 14-12 success.
“It was a great feeling to see the ball flying between the posts,” Priest said yesterday. “It was just one of those situations where you get the chance to do something special, and it all worked out well.”
Not surprisingly, Priest, who plays his club rugby for Martinborough, would dearly love to find himself in a similar position tomorrow when an even more coveted trophy is up for grabs.
“It would be nice to think it will come down to the last minute again,” he said. “A dropped goal could be on the cards then too, couldn’t it?”
While acknowledging his team will start rank underdogs, Priest sees no reason why Wairarapa-Bush shouldn’t make a bold showing against the powerful Hawke’s Bay unit.
He has been more than happy with the preparation for such a big occasion and says there won’t be any need for him to work on motivating his troops.
“Everybody is very excited about the chance to play for the Shield. It’s a proud moment in any player’s life and we all want to make the most of it. I think we’ll surprise quite a few with how competitive we are.”
Priest backs comments from head coach Josh Syms that Wairarapa-Bush’s tactical approach will revolve around focusing on their own game plan rather than dwelling on what Hawke’s Bay might do.
“Obviously we know how good they are but if we protect our ball and use it intelligently then we’ll give them something to think about.
“We have plenty of talented guys ourselves and we want to expose that talent as often as we can.”
As for Hawke’s Bay, Priest anticipates them looking to bring the likes of former All Black Zac Guildford, who will start at fullback, into the play as often as possible but he is quick to note that even players of Guildford’s calibre can struggle to make headway if the opposition’s defensive structure is up to scratch.
“We need to make our tackles, and we know there is going to be plenty of them to make. I think we are ready for that as well.”
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age