Tristan Flutey scoring for Wairarapa-Bush against Wanganui. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Wanganui showed why they are perennial Heartland Championship favourites with a dominant 61-14 win over Wairarapa-Bush in Masterton on Saturday.

The scoreline may not have reflected it, but this performance by Wairarapa-Bush showed plenty of improvement in some areas from Tuesday night’s loss to the New Zealand Army.

There was greater urgency and commitment on defence for large portions of the match, but coach Joe Harwood said tackle technique would be a key work-on this week.

“There’s too many guys going high and we just can’t afford to on these bigger bodies.

“We can work with them, but they need to take some responsibility for it as well.”

Flanker and captain James Goodger led from the front in a typically committed display, while the other loose forwards – Ryan Knell and Sam Shaw – were equally impressive.

The fact that Wairarapa-Bush were only 17-0 down at halftime was a testament to their effort, after Wanganui had threatened to blow the game wide open on a couple of occasions.

Andrew Smith gets taken down by Wanganui.

It was 33-0 before Wairarapa-Bush finally got on the board, and they had the final say in the match when they scored their second try.

Harwood said Knell had been a standout performer for his work in putting pressure on Wanganui’s ball, and was happy with the way some of the younger players had taken their opportunity.

“We had five key guys out [on Saturday] as well and some young guys really stood up.

“We were well-led by Glen Walters at 10 in the first half and Tristan [Flutey] and Soli [Malatai] really stood up on the wings as well.”

Wairarapa-Bush will have one more opportunity to put things in place for the Heartland Championship when they take on a Manawatu Development team this weekend in Dannevirke.

That match should be closer on the scoreboard, especially considering Horowhenua-Kapiti beat the Manawatu Development team 40-29 on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Wairarapa-Bush were beaten 32-6 by Horowhenua-Kapiti in Wellington.

Last year Wairarapa-Bush hosted Manawatu Development at Memorial Park and were beaten 17-33.

Harwood said they would be putting in the hard yards this week to produce a performance they could be proud of.

“We got plenty of positives out of it, and we know exactly where we need to improve.

“We had good structure in the first half once again, but we know there’s still a lot to work on.”

Wairarapa-Bush will open their Heartland Championship campaign against Poverty Bay on August 25 in Gisborne, and their first home match will be on September 1 against Thames Valley.

In Saturday’s curtain-raiser, the Wairarapa-Bush Development team was put to the sword by the Auckland Colts, eventually losing 7-132.

The match was as good as over after the Auckland side piled on 50 points in the first 25 minutes, and by halftime they had scored an incredible 80 points.

The Wairarapa-Bush side continued to fight throughout the second half, but the mismatch in talent was clear as Auckland showed no mercy and put on another 50 points.