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Wairarapa-Bush wins battle royal

By Gary Caffell

There was nothing easy about Wairarapa-Bush’s 28-18 win over Thames Valley in the Heartland rugby championship match played at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.

The passion displayed by both teams over the full 80 minutes provided a classic example of what rugby at this level is all about.

Sure, you don’t get the same skill factor as in the higher tiers of the domestic game but for sheer grit and determination this game would take a lot of beating.

Much had been written about the character and resolve displayed by Wairarapa-Bush in their win over Mid-Canterbury the previous weekend and they had to show every bit as much of that, and probably more, to dampen the Thames Valley challenge as well.

As anticipated Thames Valley were not a flashy side ever likely to run riot through the flair and inventiveness of their backs but they had a rugged set of forwards who liked nothing better than to rumble the ball up through rolling mauls and short passing rushes.

And they were good at it, often going several phases before their momentum was halted, or at least slowed.

It spokes volumes for the tenacity of the smaller Wairarapa-Bush forwards then that they did not crumble in the face of that onslaught.

Their close quarter defence, led by prop Stan Wright and loosies Eddie Cranston, James Goodger and Sam Gammie, was outstanding and when they did have ball in hand themselves they were just as assertive as their opposition, with the hugely impressive Wright and Andrew McLean often leading the way.

In an overall analysis of the set piece play of the two packs you would have to say the honours were about even.

Both teams had moments of superiority in the scrum with Thames Valley managing a strike against the head and the lineouts generally saw the sides attaining their own ball, Goodger being a regular source of possession for Wairarapa-Bush in that department.

The Thames Valley backs played a very secondary role to their forwards in an attacking sense and when they did spread the ball wide they found it difficult to penetrate a Wairarapa-Bush defence spearheaded by Zac Guildford, who made several bruising tackles in the midfield.

That the Wairarapa-Bush backs would be more creative than their counterparts was never in question but they too found it difficult to make headway against a Thames Valley defence which came up quickly and was always robust in intent.

There were a couple of exceptions to that rule, fullback Sam Monaghan, who made a couple of clean breaks and was always dangerous on the counter attack, and halfback John Ika, who darted and probed effectively around the fringes of the mauls and scrums.

Stan Wright, John Ika and Glen Walters scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush with Tim Priest kicking three conversions and a penalty and Andy Humberstone a penalty. Bryce Cowley, who was stretchered from the field with an injury late in the first half, and Ben Bonnar scored tries for Thames Valley.

Jonnie Te Ruki-Chambers kicked a penalty and Moss Doran landed two conversions.

Doran also had the misfortune to have a penalty attempt right on fulltime, which would have given his side a bonus point, bounce off the posts.

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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