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Win heralds promising start

By Gary Caffell
It was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered – a hard-fought victory after a bruising encounter in trying conditions which tested both the physical and mental capabilities of the players.
Wairarapa-Bush’s 24-14 win over Poverty Bay in their annual Jeremy David Memorial Trophy match at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday night was the perfect precursor to a representative season which should see them making another bold bid for the Meads Cup title in the 2016 Heartland championship.
For a squad containing so many newcomers to the Wairarapa-Bush jersey and which had only limited preparation time behind them this was an extremely promising effort by any standards.
The rugby purist, of course, might not agree with that sentiment because there were times-especially early in the game- when the ball was dropped so often you could have been forgiven for thinking they were playing with a bar of soap but when you consider it was the first serious hit-out for both teams those inaccuracies can be forgiven.Even more so when you consider the rain which fell through most of the game was always going to make safe handling under pressure a more difficult art.
Wairarapa-Bush led 16-8 at the end of a first half which actually saw Poverty Bay have the edge in terms of both territory and possession. The visitors had a rugged set of forwards who relished any chance to run the ball back at their opposition and their backs weren’t exactly sluggish in that respect either. Between them they gave Wairarapa-Bush’s defensive structure a decent hammering and, to their credit, the home side invariably stood firm, led as they were in that area by loosies Eddie Cranston, James Goodger and Sam Gammie and midfielders Izaq Foa’i and Robbie Anderson.
The opening try of the match, scored by Wairarapa-Bush’s Gammie,, was history making for the local union as it was the first try scored under the new rules which see them being worth six points rather than five.
Whereas there had been scant opportunity in the first half for Wairarapa-Bush to demonstrate their attacking qualities that all changed in the second when their forwards achieved ascendancy up front and they were able to consistently test the Poverty Bay defence.
The visitors were generally stoic in that department but there was still a lot to like about the mobility of the Wairarapa-Bush “tighties” like skipper Andrew Smith, who would have been a front runner for any player of the match award, Andrew McLean, Abe Haira, Matt Kawana and Richard Puddy, who came off the bench and made an instant impact with his assertive approach.
Puddy was not the only substitute to shine though, Brendan Campbell and Lachie McFadzean were quick to work themselves into the action in a positive fashion as well.
Without question the most penetrative of the Wairarapa-Bush backs was halfback John Ika, the Tasman “import” with the dancing feet and rapid acceleration. Throw in a quick, accurate pass and he has everything it takes to be a huge hit in that vital role. Glen Walters always looked balanced and solid at first-five and there was a lot to like about the robustness of a midfield in which Foa’i, Anderson and Andrew Humberstone all made favourable impressions.
Sam Gammie, John Ika and Andrew Smith scored the tries for Wairarapa-Bush with Tim Priest kicking
three conversions.

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