Centre Nicholas Mason spies a gap for Wairarapa-Bush. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
The scoreline may not have reflected it, but there were plenty of positives for Wairarapa-Bush to build on after their 6-32 loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti in a pre-season clash in Wellington on Saturday.
The match for the PGG Wrightson Trophy was played as a curtain-raiser to the Hurricanes match against the Lions, and in typical Wellington fashion a strong wind made playing conditions difficult for both teams.
The final quarter was one-way traffic as Horowhenua-Kapiti – runners-up in last year’s Heartland Championship – finished the stronger of the two sides, but the first half provided a solid foundation for Wairarapa-Bush to work with moving forward.
Horowhenua-Kapiti had the better of the opening exchanges, and first five-eighth Leon Ellison crashed over from close range to open the scoring after five minutes.
Wairarapa-Bush looked the team most likely to score throughout the rest of the first half, but errors at crucial times ensured they never managed to cross the line.
Centre Nicholas Mason was a threat every time he touched the ball, but was also guilty of not passing to unmarked supporting players on two occasions which would almost certainly have resulted in tries.
Two penalties to winger Moo Moo Falaniko closed the gap to 7-6, but Wairarapa-Bush would have been disappointed to not capitalise on the numerous chances created on attack.
Wairarapa-Bush looked dangerous when they managed to put phases together, with captain Cyrus Baker and vice-captain Sam Gammie leading from the front and making several strong charges between them.
A penalty to Horowhenua-Kapiti on the stroke of halftime gave them a 10-6 lead heading into the break and was a testament to their tenacious defensive effort.
Wairarapa-Bush would have been hoping for a solid start to the second half, but they got the opposite as Horowhenua-Kapiti lock Ryan Shelford barged his way over in the 42nd minute to quickly extend their advantage to 17-6.
The swirling breeze made it difficult for either team to use their kicking game as an attacking weapon and resulted in a long period of play in which neither team looked likely to score.
The wheels fell off for Wairarapa-Bush in the final quarter, however, as Horowhenua-Kapiti clicked into gear and ran in a further three tries to blow out the final score.
Wairarapa-Bush showed plenty of enterprise on attack and looked solid in defence for the most part, but will need to make more of their opportunities if they are to compete with the top sides in the competition when the Heartland championship starts in August.
Their next assignment will be another pre-season match against Hawke’s Bay on June 4.