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Handling errors lead to loss

By Gary Caffell

Execution was the key word when Wairarapa-Bush went down 18-16 to King Country in their opening match of the 2016 Heartland championship rugby season at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday.

In a game played in persistent rain and on a damp all-weather surface the team which controlled possession better was always likely to have the edge on the scoreboard and so it proved.

The 2pt buffer they had the final whistle fairly illustrated the slight advantage King Country had in that respect. Sure, there were occasions when handling and passing errors did stifle their progress but they were clearly fewer in number than those which hampered the Wairarapa-Bush effort.

All too often the home team were just starting to make inroads into the opposition defence when ball was spilled not because of the pressure being applied on them but through simple basic mistakes.

There were other aspects of the Wairarapa-Bush performance too which were frustrating for the good-sized crowd which turned up optimistic of a winning start to their latest Heartland campaign.

Their defence was a mixed bag, sometimes good, sometimes ordinary.In lead-up games their ability to make first tackles count had been a regular feature of their performances, not so on this occasion.And against a King Country side which was very confrontional in their attacking approach that invariably spelt trouble.

The tactical nous of the home side was not always up to standard either, particularly in the second half when they had the elements in their favour. One would have thought the game plan then would have been to pin King Country in their own territory with some judicious kicking but seldom did that occur. Rather the ball was regularly put through the hands and just as regularly turned over as a consequence.

Behind every cloud though is a silver lining and the one big positive for Wairarapa-Bush from this match was the fact that despite letting themselves down in so many areas a late try to reserve hooker Richard Puddy meant they still came away with a bonus point, and as was proved last season those can be crucial when the battle for playoff places really starts to heat up.

There could be few quibbles either with the solidity of the scrum and the accuracy of the lineout play in conditions which were always likely to make that phase of the forward game something of a lottery, and there were still a few individuals who did enough to enhance their own reputations.

Foermost amongst them was lock Andrew McLean who usually took three or four defenders with him whenever he had the chance to work up a full head of steam in attacking situations and his partner in the middle row, Andrew Smith, worked tirelessly in the tighter exchanges.That could also be said of hooker Abe Haira.

Flanker James Goodger scored a spectacular try first half  when he rose high to gather in a clever penalty kick by fullback Sam Monaghan and was a reliable winner of lineout ball and No.8 Sam Gammie was robust on attack and defence.

The Wairarapa-Bush backs struggled to operate with any fluency with some questionable decision making marring their efforts. Wing Corey McFadzean and fullback Sam Monaghan did look likely whenever they had the space to utilise their tricky footwork but they had scant opportunity in that regard. Former All Black Zac Guildford made his Heartland debut for the home team at centre and was stoic on defence. Unfortunately, however, there was little chance for him to make any impact in an attacking sense.

Stephen Turner and Sean Wanden were the try scorers for King Country with Zayn Tipping adding two conversions and a penalty. James Goodger and Richard Puddy scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Tim Priest kicked one penalty and one conversion.

Saturday’s match was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Greg Karaitiana,a star of the Wairarapa-Bush team which earned promotion to the national first division competition in the early 1980’s, who died suddenly that morning. His try scoring feats from the wing made him a legend in the local union..

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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