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Loss sums up the season

Isaac Bracewell struggles to break free of the East Coast tacklers. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Wairarapa-Bush 19
East Coast 34

Farriers Wairarapa-Bush’s Heartland Championship was aptly summed up on Saturday in an error-ridden final 80 minutes of the season at Trust House Memorial Park.

Although the final outcome was a convincing win to Ngati Porou East Coast, the home side had ample opportunities to score tries and close the gap, only to be let down by poor handling or basic errors, particularly at lineout time where the ‘Green and Reds’ bombed several prime scoring chances.

“There would’ve been close to half-a-dozen overthrows or underthrows and obviously at key times it can cost you,” said captain and No 8 Sam Gammie.

“Sometimes it was the lift – the lifter and jumper – and not the thrower so you can’t just blame one man, and the forward pack needs to take ownership there.”

Gammie said the attack was pretty good at times but handling errors and sloppy defence proved costly.

“I’m proud of the boys staying in for the full 80 but there were patches of our highs and lows, and that’s probably the story of our season.”

East Coast showed their intent to move the ball from the first whistle, and they were rewarded after two minutes when hooker Jorian Tangaere scored from an attacking lineout, after they had turned down an easy penalty kick for goal.

Tupou Lea’aemanu shrugs of the East Coast defence. Fiula Tameilau is in support.

Wai-Bush had their first opportunity to score points in the 13th minute after a bullocking 25 metre run by prop Tupou Lea’aemanu, only for a not-straight lineout throw to end their hopes.

Two tries within two minutes midway through the half took East Coast out to a 19-0 lead, before Lea’aemanu gave the home fans some hope, crashing over beside the posts after a powerful lineout drive.

Wing Fiula Tameilau looked to have scored his first try for Wai-Bush shortly afterwards only to be held up over the line.

At this stage East Coast were down to 14 men after first-five Terangi Fraser was yellow-carded for a deliberate knockdown and were possibly lucky to not be down to 13 when wing Soli Malatai was pulled back when chasing a loose ball.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first with East Coast scoring in the opening minute through wing Ngarohi McGarvey-Black.

A try to Wai-Bush centre Tafa Tafa reduced the gap to 10 points with 30 minutes to play, but East Coast’s lead was soon 15 points with their fifth try. Replacement lock Matt Masoe then barged over from a lineout drive but that was the last scoring play for the home side.

The visitors had the final say when centre Tawhao Stewart ran through a yawning gap to dot down behind the posts, only for former All Black Rico Gear, who had come on as a late substitute, to fluff the easy conversion.

For the home side, Isaac Bracewell again highlighted his potential, firstly at first-five and then halfback, Gammie was strong on defence and with ball in hand, Lea’aemanu had several powerful runs, and Tameilau regularly beat the first defender in an encouraging run-on debut.

But overall, there were too many basic errors, such as botched lineouts, a drop out from under the posts going out on the full, too many missed first-up tackles and defensive misreads, problems that have plagued the team throughout the campaign.

Wai-Bush finished with two wins over West Coast and King Country, and a disappointing 10th in the 12-team competition.

The match attracted a good crowd, with several groups coming from outside the region, many to see former All Black Ma’a Nonu, who had an industrious 51 minutes in his fourth game for East Coast.

Ma’a Nonu gets a pass away under pressure from Wai-Bush flanker Matt Perry.

The 103-test midfielder said he loved his time with the ‘sky blues’, with the team winning their first Heartland game in eight years and winning three games in the championship for the first time since 2012 when they won the Meads Cup.

“It’s good to experience Heartland and I knew the passion was always there,” said Nonu.

“It’s all about the people really. These fellas have normal jobs and just love what they do, and it’s an eye-opener for me, so it’s great to get the experience.”

He said he particularly enjoyed coming back to play at Memorial Park.

“I had great memories of this park when I was a kid. I played here for Wellington under-16s in 1998 and lost to Hawke’s Bay in the final then came back with Wellington Secondary Schools in 2000 and beat them in the final.”

BRIEF SCORES

Wairarapa Bush 19 [Tupou Lea’amanu, Tafa Tafa, Matt Masoe tries; Tipene Haira 2 con] East Coast 34 [Jorian Tangaere, Hone Haerewa, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sam Parkes, Tawhao Stewart 2 tries; Terangi Fraser 2 con]. HT: 7-19

CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE

South Canterbury 40; Thames Valley 33; Whanganui 30; North Otago 25; Poverty Bay, Mid Canterbury, Horowhenua-Kapiti 24; East Coast 20; West Coast 16; Wairarapa-Bush 10; Buller 2, King Country 1

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