Wai-Bush fullback Inia Katia making a break against Hawke’s Bay Saracens in Monday’s match at Hastings. PHOTO/HBT

Coach mulls Heartland options
‘Some of the guys were out on their feet after 15 minutes’

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

There were more positives than negatives for Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood from Monday’s 17-42 preseason loss to Hawke Bay Saracens in Hastings.

Harwood’s plans for the game were thrown into disarray even before the team left Masterton.

First-five Josh Pepperell withdrew with illness and second-five Moo Moo Falaniko pulled out after suffering a serious hand injury in a workplace accident.

That had reserve halfback Paddy Gluck move to first-five and Brock Price come off the bench to start at second-five.

Saracens went out to a 28-0 halftime lead, and Harwood said the disjointed build-up contributed to the scoreline.

“It was a step up for a lot of our guys and we struggled to get into our shape on defence. We were slow at the cleanout and there was a lack of urgency.

“When we had the ball, we couldn’t put more than three phases together before we lost it.”

Harwood said the lack of physical conditioning of some of the players was evident early on.

“Fitness was a concern. Some of the guys were out on their feet after 15 minutes.

“We’ve seen it in training and there are certain individuals who are well off the pace. They need to do a lot more work to get up to speed.”

The second half was far more productive for Wairarapa-Bush, outscoring Saracens 17-14.

Price capped a strong game with two tries, while centre Robbie Anderson also crossed for a five-pointer.

“Our cleanout was much better and we held on to the ball a lot better.

“We made some nice line breaks and there were some good forward exchanges. We showed some good skills.”

Harwood was impressed with the setpieces.

“Our lineout was very good. Bruce Kauika-Petersen was very accurate, he regularly hit his man at the back of the lineout, and James Pitoki was very good when he came on.”

Kauika-Petersen underlined his versatility with a strong performance when he moved to flanker in the second half.

Big No 8 Joe Teko also made an impact when he entered the fray in the second half. He made several powerful runs and was solid on defence.

With Saracens dominating possession, the backline had limited opportunities to impress.

Gluck did a good job in the unaccustomed role of first-five, kicking well and providing a good link for his outsides.

Anderson was a rock in midfield and made the most of his chances with ball in hand.

Inia Katia was his usual unpredictable self, making a few line breaks and stretching the Saracens’ defence when given the space at fullback.

Debutant winger Logan Prendeville-Heberton made a couple of nice runs and defended well, and Alex Priest, playing in the unfamiliar wing role, made a good fist of his first start.

Harwood said there will probably be changes for the Heartland squad, but the performance of some of the players had given him some good options.

“It’s put the pressure on the players. Some of them, and some are more experienced players, need to pull finger out.

“Their fitness is not good enough, and they need to lift their intensity if they want to be there.”

Monday’s outing was the last until August.

The team’s pre-season build-up to the Heartland Championship will involve matches against the New Zealand Army in a night game in Masterton, an away match against a Wellington Development side and a home game against Wellington Samoans.

The Heartland Championship kicks-off at home to Whanganui on August 24.