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Better effort from Wai-Bush

Tristan Flutey [centre], playing against Whanganui in 2018, scored the opening try on Saturday but was carried off injured. PHOTO/FILE


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Whanganui 22
Wairarapa-Bush 18

Farriers Wairarapa-Bush turned in a much-improved performance to pick up their first point of the Heartland Championship away to Whanganui on Saturday.

That was despite some forced late changes, which left the green and reds with only six players on the bench, after former All Black Zac Guildford was a late withdrawal when he strained a calf muscle in the warmup. That had Moomoo Falaniko come into the starting line-up on the wing, and a reshuffle in the midfield, with centre Tafa Tafa moving into second-five and Tristan Flutey coming off the wing into centre.

Wai-Bush brushed aside the disruption and produced their best 40 minutes of the championship so far, taking a handy 11-0 lead approaching halftime, through a try to Flutey, and a penalty each to Sam Morison and Falaniko.

The home side could not be denied though, and fought back two minutes either side of halftime with two tries to hooker Roman Tutaha, both from lineout drives. A third try to centre Jason Hughes and a penalty to Ethan Robertson extended Whanganui’s lead to 22-11 with 14 minutes to play.

Wai-Bush dug deep though and hammered away at the Whanganui line for a bonus point, and they were eventually rewarded when Falaniko touched down and slotted the conversion.

Wai-Bush went into the clash with the six-time Meads Cup champions on the back of heavy losses to Thames Valley [10-42], and South Canterbury [17-61], and needing to show sharp

improvement to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“It was a much better display,” said Wai-Bush coach Mark Rutene, “We were in the game the whole 80 and pumping away in the last minute and we were lucky enough to get over and get a bonus point.

“It’s just good for us to get some points on the board and get started. The last couple of weeks have been pretty tough but we’re starting to gel and trained really well this week and I had a feeling we’d do pretty well.”

Rutene said the big difference was the determination shown by the players.

“Commitment to the tackle, commitment to getting off the deck and playing for each other that was the big improvement.

“We learned some lessons from the last two weeks around our short-side defence, and we got where we needed to be, and we defended well. It was just a good all-round effort and the guys really put their hands up.”

Once again, Wai-Bush were outsized, however, Rutene feels the players acquitted themselves well against their much bigger opponents.

“They were bigger than us, but every team is bigger than us. They had lots of lineout options that they could drive but we really got into it. Our scrum was good, and our lineouts weren’t too bad considering we were missing [lock] Andrew McLean.”

Isaac Bracewell [right], playing for Carterton in 2018, had an outstanding debut for Wai-Bush against Whanganui.
One player to stand out for Rutene was halfback Isaac Bracewell, who was outstanding on debut, giving the coach a potential selection headache.

The 21-year-old is the sixth loan player used by Rutene in the championship, and his first-up performance could make it difficult for him to be left out in the future.

“It’s a good problem. That’s what we want good problems, and that does create a good problem for us,” said Rutene.

The versatile Sam Gammie had a strong game in the unaccustomed role of lock, captain and openside flanker Johan van Vliet had his typically abrasive powerful game, Tafa was sharp when he had the opportunity to run, while prop Lewis Bush continues to impress with another standout performance at scrum time and with his strong ball carrying in open play.

As well as Guildford, Flutey with a potentially serious ankle injury and prop Tupou Lea’aemanu with a lower leg injury are injury concerns for the week ahead.

Wai-Bush are 10th in the 12-team competition, and although a place in the top tier Meads Cup final is already out of reach, the Lochore Cup for third and fourth, or the new trophy for fifth and sixth remain realistic goals.

Wai-Bush are at home on Saturday for their next encounter, against Mid Canterbury, who were beaten by North Otago on Saturday.

Brief scores

Whanganui 22 [Roman Tutaha 2, Jamie Hughes tries; Ethan Robinson 2 con, pen]; Wairarapa-Bush 18 [Tristan Flutey, Moomoo Falaniko tries; Sam Morison pen; Falaniko con, pen]. HT: 5-11

Heartland Championship Points

South Canterbury, Thames Valley 15; Horowhenua-Kapiti 14; Whanganui, Poverty Bay, Mid Canterbury, North Otago 10; West Coast 6; East Coast 3; Wairarapa-Bush 1; Buller, King Country 0.

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