Farriers Wairarapa-Bush withstood a strong second half comeback to beat King Country 22-18 and win the inaugural game for the Lochore-Meads Memorial Scroll, which recognises the contributions of the late Sir Brian Lochore and Sir Colin Meads.
The impressive scroll, was designed by Meads’ son Glynn, and was presented by him and Lady Pam Lochore before kickoff at Trust House Memorial Park. That was followed by a haka by the combined Wai-Bush and Manawatu Maori sides.
Once play got under way the home side dominated the early exchanges.
Debutant first-five Sam Morison had an early chance to settle his nerves with a 30m kick from in front, which he duly slotted.
Morison missed a similar attempt shortly afterwards but made amends with a superb sideline conversion of centre Nikora Ewe’s opening try, which came from a slick backline move started by a break from livewire winger Inia Katia.
Morison was originally listed to start at fullback, but coach Joe Harwood made a late change to start the Carterton first-five in his regular position.
“I thought he did some really good stuff out there and he got us out of trouble a couple of times when he had to, and for a first run for a young fella in a pivotal position he did really well,” Harwood said.
Former Dutch international flanker Johan van Vliet was next on the scoresheet burrowing over from a lineout drive.
If the first half was all Wai-Bush, the second half mostly belonged to King Country.
Two penalties to first-five Kieron Rollinson and a try to fullback Mohi Roberts closed the gap to 15-11 with 21 minutes to play.
That fired up the home side and they responded with their best attacking play of the second period.
A try to replacement prop Sam Gammie after 74 minutes made the score 22-11, and took the game out of King Country’s reach, although the visitors did reply with a converted try on fulltime.
Harwood said it wasn’t pretty, but he’ll take the win.
“We were light with a bit of firepower in some positions, but the boys worked hard, and we spoke about what we had to do at halftime because we were a bit flat in terms of our shape.
“In the second half we tried to play footy within our 30-metre mark instead of just getting back downtown and putting the ball in front of the forwards.”
Harwood was also impressed with another of the young guns, Himiona Haira, who replaced van Vliet when he was forced from the field with a cut to the head.
“We could have put Johie back on, but it was a good chance for Himiona to get some more experience and he’s an energetic young fella.”
“I also thought [blindside flanker] Joe Tako had a big game. He did a lot work defensively and was strong in the pick-and-goes and got us over the gainline.”