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Robinson happy with first effort

Copthorne Wairarapa Bush coach Reece Robinson was pleased with the first representative hit out of the season, a 50–24 victory over Central Hawke’s Bay [CHB] at Eketāhuna on Monday.

Wai Bush ran in eight tries [four in each half] in a dominant display and retained the Stu Smith Memorial Cup, played in honour of the late Wai Bush lock, who also represented Hawke’s Bay and died in 2016 after a long battle with motor neuron disease.

Robinson’s focus was not so much on the scoreboard as on assessing how some of the promising young players from the club competition would cope at a higher level, and overall, he felt it was “a pleasing result.”

“It’s definitely pleasing to see a lot of these young guys did step up; it probably did expose a few players who are definitely out of shape, and it shows the stuff we’ve been working on. They put it out there, and it worked,” Robinson said.

Although several of the young guns took their chance, Robinson named one of the old heads, Tipene Haira, who played at fullback, as the best in the backline. He was also impressed with the midfield combination of Charles Mataitai and Fiula Tameilau and praised the first-five halfback pairing of Ashton Coates and Benazzi Ward. Disappointingly for Coates, his debut lasted only 20 minutes, forced off after suffering a heavy knock in general play just before he scored a try.

Tameilau finished the game at halfback and scored a brilliant individual try, brushing off several tacklers on a bustling run to the line.

“Last year, I named him [Fiula] in our initial training squad as a nine after he played a game for Carterton, and he has a really good pass, but his best position is midfield, but moving forward, he is one we’ll look at to fill in that role if need be,” Robinson said.

In the forwards, rangy Fijian lock Sekove “Shaq” Finau stood out, especially in the open, where he made several telling runs, including one where he beat three despairing tackles to score.

Flanker Thomas Williams “went well in the first half,” and No. 8 Tama Bartlett stood out for his work ethic. “If he gets knocked over, he just gets back up and into his work, and I want to see more of my players play like that.”

The scrum, particularly in the first half, had the wood on their opponents, spearheaded by captain Sam Gammie, who packed down in the front row in a representative game for the first time in several years.

“It was quite pleasing to see Sam Gammie do well at tighthead. We spoke at halftime and after the game, and he knows there are a few things he needs to work on technically, but it was pleasing to see the scrum go well in the first half.

“The second half, we probably lost a bit of contact and a bit of shape, but overall, it was pretty pleasing, and they brought on some big boys in the last quarter, and they really put our guys under pressure.”

Robinson was also satisfied with the defence, although CHB did test Wai Bush out wide at times and scored from one of those moves, which was started by former Martinborough flanker Sam Twigley, who showed lightning speed to spit open the defence.

“The try they did score on the far edge, I thought we defended really well, and we had really good line speed and forced them to make that 50–50 pass and moving forward, that’s the type of defence we want to put teams under pressure and make them force those passes, and ideally we don’t want those passes to go to hand like it did.”

“We’ve only really touched on defence and have probably only had two or three 20-minute sessions, and overall it was pretty pleasing.”

Haira pulled off the defensive read of the game, though, when he intercepted a pass deep inside his 22m to deny a certain try and sparked a counterattack, which led to a Wai Bush five-pointer a few phases later.

Robinson will now name a wider training squad, probably of 45 players, to prepare for the Heartland Championship and the Wai Bush Barbarians [2nd XV] campaign.

“Essentially, we only have four trainings until the playoffs, so it’s pretty crucial for us to get in as many sessions in before the end of the season because there’s a pretty short turnaround once the club season has finished to get into our Heartland mode so we need a lot of the foundation sorted.”

    Wai Bush’s next outing is against Manawatū Evergreens on August 3 at Eketāhuna, followed by Horowhenua-Kapiti away on August 10.

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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