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Slick Wai-Bush run riot

Wairarapa-Bush 73
Manawatu Evergreens 41

If Saturday’s rollicking win is anything to go by, local rugby fans could be in for a thrilling and entertaining Heartland Championship.

Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush crossed for 11 tries in an at times exhilarating display of running rugby at Trust House Memorial Park against an Evergreens side, which is effectively Manawatu B.

Seven tries came in an impressive first half, giving Wai-Bush a 45-12 lead at halftime. However, the second half became a bit more disjointed, with coach Reece Robinson having made 12 changes and Evergreens showing more intent and applying more pressure on the home side’s defence.

“I think there were a few things in that second half,” Robinson said.

“We were trying to do too much individually, but making those changes, we probably lost some of that continuity.

“Some of the players were a bit too eager, a bit too keen, and just running out of our systems and not keeping our shape on defence, and obviously they exposed us a little bit, but that’s what preseason games are all about.”

Captain Sam Gammie had a typically powerful game. PHOTOS/GRAEME BOWDEN

The most pleasing aspect for the first-year coach was the work rate of the players.

“It was nice to see guys working hard to get into a really good position to be effective. The set piece was pretty solid apart from the first lineout.

“We gave free license to the players, especially the backs, to play what’s in front of them, and we felt in the first half they did a really good job of it.”

To the forefront was centre Fiula Tameilau, who regularly bamboozled defenders with his footwork and pace. His midfield combination with the experienced Tafa Tafa showed promise.

Ben Brooking directed play well from first-five, the two halfbacks Sam Walton-Sexton in the first half and Isaac Bracewell in the second 40 minutes distributed well and were lively runners around the fringes, while Nikora Ewe was an elusive runner in the unaccustomed position of wing and was rewarded with two tries.

Veteran Inia Katia stood out for Robinson with his ability to get in the opposition’s face and slow their ball down. Captain Sam Gammie turned in his usual honest effort with several strong runs and work at the breakdown, while prop Tupou Lea’aemanu was a constant threat with the ball in hand.

Robinson admits to being a bit disappointed at the strength of Evergreens, who were much bigger than Wai-Bush and included several fringe Manawatu Turbo players.

He said there is still a lot to work on before the start of the Heartland campaign against East Coast on August 12, and he and the rest of the coaching staff will analyse the video, including drone coverage of the game.

Halfback Isaac Bracewell had a strong second half.

“That really shows up a different view than the general view that you get from side on and shows our shape a lot better and identify guys who do push out of line, and that’s just conversations with individuals, and it’s a pretty easy fix.”

Overall, though, Robinson is rapt with the result and feels the team is moving in the right direction.

“It was great to see that stuff that we’ve worked on over the last 11-12 weeks is paying off.

“We’re not going to be the biggest team in the Heartland comp, and for us, we‘ve got to play the way we did yesterday [Saturday] at times, with that quick wide to wide ball, and we’ve got to able to move the big opposition around and that will create opportunities for us to attack.”

Wai-Bush play their final warmup match away on Saturday to Wellington Samoans.

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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