Tipene Haira on the burst for Wairarapa-Bush against Wanganui. PHOTO/WANGANUI CHRONICLE
Wairarapa-Bush were literally run off their feet in their Heartland Championship rugby match with Wanganui at Wanganui on Saturday.
The home team ran in 10 tries to one in a crushing 79-7 victory, making it the biggest defeat ever suffered by Wairarapa-Bush in a Heartland game.
And it was the third year in succession Wanganui had posted more than a half century of points against them, following as it did from a 58-26 loss last year and a 57-35 beating in 2015.
That Wanganui, the defending Meads Cup champions, won this particular game against a very much new look Wairarapa-Bush side missing several key players through injury was by no means surprising but Wairarapa-Bush head coach Joe Harwood freely conceded the end result was “nowhere near good enough.”
“It was very disappointing, a horrible way to start our Heartland season,” Harwood said.
“They [Wanganui] were impressive but we just weren’t in the game, it was nowhere near good enough from our perspective.”
The big problem for Wairarapa-Bush was a lack of possession.
Wanganui dominated every ball winning avenue, except perhaps the scrums where Wairarapa-Bush were at least competitive, and the many strong ball carriers in their side relished the chance to constantly test the Wairarapa-Bush defence.
“I’d hate to think how many tackles we had to make, they just kept coming at us in wave after wave and in the end our defence simply wasn’t tight enough to hold them out,” Harwood said.
Defending for long periods is, of course, always exhausting and that told on Wairarapa-Bush on the few occasions they had the opportunity to launch attacks themselves.
“Basically, we just didn’t have the energy left to get anything going, we had been asked to make so many tackles we virtually had nothing left in the tank,” Harwood said.
Not helping the Wairarapa-Bush cause either was the loss of two of their more experienced campaigners in halfback Piri Weepu and prop Jacko Hull just after halftime.
Former All Black Weepu, making his debut for Wairarapa-Bush in the Heartland competition, became short of breath and was treated by ambulance staff while lying prone on the ground before eventually walking from the field while Hull left with a back injury.
About the only bright spot for Wairarapa-Bush, in fact, was that winger Nikora Ewe marked his Heartland debut by scoring a first half try which Tim Priest converted.
Second-five Timoci Seruwalu scored three of the Wanganui tries with others going to Lindsay Horrocks, Kaveni Dabenaise, Tremaine Gilbert, Fraser Hammond, Simon Dibben, Angus Middleton and Craig Clare, who also landed six conversions and three penalties.
The remainder of their 79pts came from Dane Whale who kicked four conversions
Wairarapa-Bush can at least take some consolation from the fact that their next opponent is East Coast, who were at the bottom of the points table last year and who were on the end of a 42-13 beating by Thames Valley in their opening match.
That game will be played at Memorial Park next Saturday and Joe Harwood makes no secret of the importance it will have on his team’s Heartland campaign.
“This week is massive for us, we have to prepare well and come away with a positive result.”
In other first round fixtures Buller edged out South Canterbury 27-24, Horowhenua-Kapiti upset North Otago 22-19, Mid-Canterbury defeated Poverty Bay 34-5 and West Coast beat King Country 17-6.
The news wasn’t good either for the Wairarapa-Bush development squad in their match with their Wanganui counterparts in Wanganui on Saturday, Wanganui winning 50-17.