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Lochore Cup chances gone in the rain

Soli Malatai scored a late try against East Coast. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

EAST COAST 20

WAIRARAPA-BUSH 16

Any chance of Farriers Wairarapa-Bush sneaking into the Lochore Cup semifinals disappeared at a wet and windy Whakarua Park, Ruatoria, on Saturday.

Wai-Bush needed to win their penultimate game in the Heartlands Championship against Ngati Porou East Coast, probably with a bonus point, to have any hope of making the playoffs, but the heavy ground and constant rain meant conditions weren’t conducive to open, free-flowing rugby.

First-five Aidan Champion opened the scoring for the Green and Reds with an easy penalty after 14 minutes only for the home side to take the lead through a try to hooker Joe Royal from a lineout drive, converted by first-five Carlos Kemp, who shortly afterwards added a penalty for a 10-3 lead.

Wai-Bush had their chances to close the gap right on halftime with a series of dominant scrums close to the East Coast line, but a technical scrum infringement gave the home side a relieving penalty, much to the frustration of coach Mark Rutene, who rued his team’s errors and failure to capitalise.

“At the end of the first half we had five minutes on their line and should’ve scored but we just didn’t have enough patience,” Rutene said.

“Our scrum was strong but we lost about six lineouts, and they would kick down and then win the ball back on our lineouts, so that didn’t function.

“We probably tried to play a little bit of dry weather rugby but we changed that in the second half.”

Inia Katia, with oldest daughter Honor, speaks to Radio Ngati Porou after his 100th game. PHOTO/FACEBOOK

Simple errors by both teams plagued the start of the second 40 minutes before the injection of Inia Katia, who made an immediate impact on his 100th appearance for Wai-Bush, forcing a crucial turnover
and winning a penalty.

However, the tricky conditions made it difficult to get any attacking rugby going and it took a well-timed intercept by winger Charles Mataitai, who leapt high, gathered a loopy pass and ran 40m unopposed, to give Wai-Bush a chance of victory at 10-8.

A penalty to replacement first-five Tipene Haira soon afterwards gave the visitors the lead.

However, that was shortlived, as a missed tackle in midfield had flanker Will Bolingfield score in the corner from a planned backline move from a lineout. A Kemp penalty extended East Coast’s lead to 20-11 with nine minutes to play.

Wai-Bush pushed hard for a late comeback, but it wasn’t until the 78th minute when winger Soli Malatai dived over in the corner.

They then had a chance from a scrum on halfway after Kemp’s kick-off went dead, but a turnover at the first breakdown ended the game keeping alive the home side’s hopes of semifinal rugby and locking away the Bill Osborne Taonga for the summer.

“They’ve had a lot of rain and it rained during the game, so the ball was wet and slippery although the handling wasn’t too bad, but it was hard to get the ball wide, and I don’t think we got it wide until Soli scored,” Rutene said.

“It was winnable but we didn’t play as well as we did last week.”

Rutene was, however, full of praise for Katia on becoming the union’s first centurion since prop Bryan Styles in 1995.

The 34-year-old was presented with a special embroidered jersey by his father-in-law Bernie Lett, himself a centurion, and a cap by mother-in-law Karen Lett, as well as a gift from the team. His wife Jenna, and three children – daughters Honor and Nani, and son Manoa – were also there to celebrate the rare feat.

“It was a great occasion for him apart from the result. Both teams performed a haka to him – it was good.”

Wai-Bush wrap up their Heartland campaign this Saturday at home to Buller, and Rutene said the team are determined to finish on high.

“There will be a new team next year, so hopefully it will be a good day and we can express ourselves.”

BRIEF SCORES

Ngati Porou East Coast 20 [Joe Royal, Will Bolingfield tries; Carlos Kemp 2 pen, 2 con] Farriers Wairarapa-Bush 16 [Charles Mataitai, Soli Malatai tries; Aidan Champion pen, Tipene Haira pen] HT 10-3

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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