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Meads Cup aspirations remain

By Gary Caffell

Tomorrow’s match against Horowhenua-Kapiti at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, has all the makings of being a defining moment for Wairarapa-Bush in the 2016 Heartland rugby championship.

The 16-18 loss to King Country in Masterton last weekend clearly wasn’t the end of the world as far as their Meads Cup aspirations were concerned because they still have seven qualifying games to go to work themselves into a position from where they can challenge for the premier trophy. A second successive defeat however, and suddenly that goal would become a much tougher target.

The King Country result did raise early questions about the ability of this Wairarapa-Bush side to collectively lift their game to the point where success on a regular basis at the higher level can be confidently anticipated.

King Country are undoubtedly a handy team, big and robust and full of players who obviously enjoy the more confrontational aspects of the game. That said, they should still not have been able to beat a Wairarapa-Bush team which earned enough quality possession to make a huge statement on the scoreboard but who constantly marred their performance through sloppy handling and poor decision-making.

From all reports Horowhenua-Kapiti are similar in kind to King Country. They defeated Thames Valley 34-30 in their opening game and revolved a lot of their play around a rugged pack and an inside combination which  chose their options well. And the fact they ran in four tries suggests they know how to turn scoring opportunities into points on the board.

Wisely, Wairarapa-Bush head coach Josh Syms and his assistants Joe Harwood and James Bruce have resisted any temptation to make big changes to their starting line-up from that which initially took the field against King Country. Indeed there are just two, Richard Puddy comes in for Abe Haira at hooker  and Tasman “import”  Izaq Foa’l is over his injury hassles and replaces Andy Humberstone at second-five.

By mainly sticking with the ship Syms and company are showing faith in their players and trusting they will repay them with an effort which is far more cohesive and composed than they produced first up.

One imagines the tactics will remain pretty much the same as well. Their mobility right through the team is probably Wairarapa-Bush’s greatest attribute so the quicker they can move the ball away from the set pieces the better it should be for them. Consistently unleash the speed and flair in the outside backs and positive things should happen, providing, of course, that the passes stick!

The Wairarapa-Bush team is: Sam Monaghan; Corey McFadzean, Zac Guildford, Izaq Foa’l, Glen Walters; Tim Priest, John Ika; Sam Gammie; Eddie Cranston, Andrew McLean, Andrew Smith, James Goodger; Mike Kawana, Richard Puddy, Jacko Hull. Reserves: Daryl Pickering, Andy Humberstone, Cameron Hayton, Nick Hohepa, Abe Haira, Brendan Campbell, Liam Devine.

Kick-off is at 3.05pm and the match will be televised live on Sky Sport.

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