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Another win for Wai-Bush

By Gary Caffell

Wairarapa-Bush leap frogged into the top four on the points table with their 38-22 Heartland championship rugby win over North Otago at Oamaru on Saturday.

Going into the match Wairarapa-Bush was fifth and North Otago fourth but such is the closeness of the competition the result saw Wairarapa-Bush jump to fourth and North Otago drop to seventh.

Whanganui are making the pace with 24pts, followed by South Canterbury 22, Buller 21, Wairarapa-Bush 19, Mid-Canterbury 17, King Country 16 and North Otago 15.

Already these look to be the seven sides contesting for the Meads Cup semis a little further down the track.

The size of the victory might suggest otherwise but Wairarapa-Bush actually came out second in the battle for both territory and possession in their latest assignment.

Much of the reason for that was a penalty count which went heavily in North Otago’s favour, 24 to six.

A good many of the penalties conceded were for offside play with Wairarapa-Bush head coach Josh Syms putting it down to players being over-enthusiastic in defensive situations.

“We knew it would be a game where we had to make our tackles count and we got a bit excited at times and paid the price. It was frustrating but it was mostly our own fault.”

Losing star flanker James Goodger just before kickoff with a leg injury meant a reshuffle to the Wairarapa-Bush pack with the experiment of playing Sam Gammie at lock having to be put on the back burner.

Andrew Smith again paired with Andrew McLean in the middle row with Gammie making up the loose trio with skipper Eddie Cranston and Brendan Campbell.

Syms was delighted with the competitiveness of the Wairarapa-Bush forwards at scrum and lineout.

The three props used, Matt Kawana, Nick Hohepa and Viake Poturu, anchored a scrum which provided a stable platform while Smith and McLean were prominent in the lineouts.

The starting loose trio were always combative in their approach and Blake Knight and Liam Devine both made a positive impact there when they came off the bench.

Any player of the match award for Wairarapa-Bush though would have had to go to halfback John Ika who was a veritable ball of energy.

He scored a spectacular solo try after regathering his own box kick and played a big part in two others as well. Second-five Izaq Foa‘l was another back to shine.

He featured in a number of surging runs and was seldom halted by the first tackle.

The solidness of his defence, and also that of centre Zac Guildford, was noteworthy too.

Andrew McLean, John Ika, Glen Walters, Izaq Foa’l and Zac Guildford scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Tim Priest kicked three conversions and a penalty goal.

Shay Tucker, Filipo Veamatahau and Lemi Masoe were the North Otago try scorers and Josh Casey landed two conversions.

Wairarapa-Bush now prepare for another crucial game against Buller at Memorial Park, Masterton this coming Saturday amid doubts about the availability of Foa’l, who has an ankle strain and Walters, who left the field on Saturday after taking a blow to the face.

The news about Goodger is brighter with Syms confident he will be fully recovered by then.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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