Too big, too fast, too skilful.
That about sums up Wanganui’s imposing 58-26 win over Wairarapa-Bush in their Heartland championship Meads Cup semi-final match at Cooks Garden, Whanganui on Saturday.
The home team pretty much had their grands final spot signed, sealed and delivered when they raced out to a 32-6 lead by halftime and while they only outscored Wairarapa-Bush by 6pts in the second half they continued to look the more accomplished of the two teams.
The firepower in the Wanganui attack was such that tries looked on whenever they had the ball in hand and it actually spoke volumes for the dogged tenacity of Wairarapa-Bush that they did not concede more than seven tries, all but one of which were converted.
The Wanganui forwards were as solid and accurate as they needed to be in the set pieces but it was their mobility which made the biggest impression. They constantly made good metreage with their passing rushes and the loosies, in particular, were always menacing in broken play.
In the backs too Wanganui were impressive, choosing their options wisely and often providing the room and space for their pacy three-quarter line to display their attacking potential.
Wairarapa-Bush went into the game knowing that a strong start was essential against opposition which had the confidence of having gone through their qualifying round games with an unbeaten record.
Unfortunately, however, that didn’t happen and they were playing catch-up from a very early stage. Indeed Wanganui actually posted 32pts before Wairarapa-Bush finally broke their “duck” just before the halftime
break with a Glen Walters try.
The fact they did manage to score as many tries in the second spell-three- as Wanganui did- was at least something Wairarapa-Bush could savour. Two of those tries went to skipper, flanker Eddie Cranston, and the other to former All Black Zac Guildford.
Cranston was the leading light in a Wairarapa-Bush pack which toiled away honestly without every looking like gaining any sort of ascendancy over their Wanganui counterparts. He was a willing ball carrier and doughty defender. Fellow flanker Sam Gammie had a high workrate too while lock Andrew McLean had his moments too.
With only a limited ball of quality ball coming their way the Wairarapa-Bush backs had little chance to make a real impression on proceedings.Not surprisingly Wanganui had obviously decided that Guildford was the danger man and marked him closely but he still showed glimpses of his class.
Wairarapa-Bush Josh Syms was making no excuses in his post-match comments. He said his team had gone into the game with high hopes but in the end didn’t have the firepower to chase the game. “Wanganui were just bigger and stronger at the breakdowns and we couldn’t match their physicality. They are a classy outfit so we are not too disappointed.”
Blake Hohaia (2), Malakai Volau, Michael Nabuliwaqe, Ace Malo, Te Rangitira Waitokia and Craig Clare scored tries for Wanganui with Clare adding six conversions and Dane Whale a conversion. Eddie Cranston (2), Glen Walters and Zac Guildford scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Andy Humberstone landed one conversion.
In the other Meads Cup semi-final Buller upset South Canterbury 16-6 while the Lochore Cup semis saw North Otago beat Mid-Canterbury 36-24 and King Country defeat Poverty Bay 48-26.