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Lash has the final say in win

By Gary Caffell

How appropriate is was that the game’s most influential player, Buller first-five James Lash, should kick a penalty two minutes from fulltime which eventually sealed his team’s 24-22 win over Wairarapa-Bush in the Heartland championship rugby match at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday.

And how appropriate it was too that a desperate last ditch attack from Wairarapa-Bush to secure the try which would have given them maximum points ended with the ball being spilled and the final whistle being sounded.

That was just one of many crucial handling mistakes made by the home team throughout the course of the game, and particularly in the last quarter when the stakes were highest.

To all intents and purposes this was a game Wairarapa-Bush should have won and that they done so they would now be in a powerful position to qualify for the semi-finals of the premier section, the Meads Cup. The narrow loss certainly didn’t end those aspirations but it just as certainly made them more difficult to achieve.

That Buller are a very handy side by Heartland standards is without debate. They have the size and mobility to always make a nuisance of themselves up front and their backs, guided by the mercurial Lash, are big and fast. But whichever way you look at Saturday’s match you have to wonder what Wairarapa-Bush’s winning margin might have been had they retained possession with the same aplomb as their opposition.

Wairarapa-Bush went into the game with a plan which revolved around gaining the sort of ascendancy up front which would restrict the attacking qualities of the Buller backs and the forwards made a pretty decent fist of that challenge. There was a commendable solidity about their scrummaging and lineout play and  you couldn’t fault their physicality in the many short passing rushes they employed. Andrew McLean, Sam Gammie, Eddie Cranston and Brendan Campbell were to the fore there.

Pleasing too was the stoutness of the Wairarapa-Bush close quarter defence when the Buller forwards looked to make metreage around the fringes of the mauls. Cranston’s workrate was outstanding there with Gammie little behind him.

The one big blot on the Wairarapa-Bush forward effort was their frustrating habit of turning over possession  just as momentum was starting to build. Often it seemed to occur in tackle situations which poses the question of whether the fault lay with the ball carrier or with his supports being too slow to react.

The Wairarapa-Bush backs, for their part, looked every bit as inventive as their Buller counterparts

but they too coloured their performance by suffering from the “dropsies” from time to time. Halfback John Ika was his typical elusive self until suffering an injury which forced him from the field and Andy Humberstone, Cemeron Hayton and Sam Monaghan both had their moments but it was centre Zac Guildford who made the most impact, being impressively effective on attack and defence.

Lash scored 14 of the Buller points with a try, three conversions and a penalty. His try was an absolute cracker although it did have a touch of luck about it, a chip kick from his own 10-metre line, bouncing away from two Wairarapa-Bush defenders and into his hands and there was no stopping his dash for the line. It was Lash who also made the break which resulted in a try to Setefano Sauqaqa while prop Phil Beveridge scored the other Buller try.

Hayton scored two of Wairarapa-Bush’s three tries, the first when a shot of goal was turned down and swift movement of the ball saw Hayton unmarked out wide and the second when he capitalised on a Guildford break. Sam Gammie also got his name on the try scoring sheet after halfback John Ika had split the Buller defence. Tim Priest added two conversions and after he was substituted Andy Humberstone kicked a penalty.He also had the chance to put his team in front 26-24 moments later with another penalty attempt from a handy range but pushed the ball wide.

In other Heartland matches played on Saturday Poverty Bay thumped West Coasr 62-28, Mid-Canterbury walloped East Coast 76-22, South Canterbury beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 36-24, Wanganui overwhelmed Thames Valley 60-14 and King Country and North Otago fought out a 4-4 draw.

Unofficial competition points: Wanganui 29, South Canterbury 27, Buller 25, Mid-Canterbury 22, Wairarapa-Bush 20, King Country 18, North Otago 17, Poverty Bay 13, Horowhenua-Kapiti 9, West Coast 6, Thames Valley 5, East Coast 3.

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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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