The away team hoodoo has again hit Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush.
For the third time in the Heartland Championship, the ‘green and reds’ have travelled away – this time to Westport – and returned without a win, which has left coach Reece Robinson scratching his head over the team’s travel phobia.
“It’s extremely frustrating. I don’t know what it is, but we seem to play poorly when we are away,” Robinson said.
“Our preparation went really, really well; we trained well during the week, we travelled well, but that switch we didn’t flick, and it was disappointing that we couldn’t put that on the field.”
Robinson is at a loss to pinpoint the problem but feels that some players could be lacking self-belief.
“They should have the confidence because they know if we do the basics well, we can put teams under a lot of pressure, but I just feel a lot of guys were just happy to be on tour.
“We should be peaking now. As a coach, it is quite frustrating because we’ve given them all the tools, we’ve trained well, and we’ve pinpointed weekly what the areas are that make these players click.
“Some players played well. I thought Logan [Wakefield] was outstanding again, Sam Gammie played well, Isaac Bracewell played well, but we’ve got too many guys who I feel are just happy to be there, which is frustrating because I feel we’re definitely a top-four team, but after the weekend we have to reassess our goals.”
As in previous games, it was a slow start that ultimately cost Wai-Bush against Buller, who went into the game without a win and languishing at the foot of the table.
A try to winger Iliesa Tora in the opening two minutes after Tipene Haira’s exit kick was charged down gave the home side the early momentum. First-five Jack Parker added a second try midway through the half for a 17–3 lead.
The visitors were fortunate to go into halftime trailing 17–8 after flying fullback Jayden Keelan was awarded a try in the corner after a brilliant 55m run although he appeared to lose the ball over the line.
A try to No. 8 George Reeves after 43 minutes extended Buller’s lead to 14 points before Gammie barged over from a tap penalty for Wai-Bush’s second try.
Buller winger Blaine Meikel dotted down to make the score 27–15 midway through the half, and then came some more Keelan magic. The flying fullback started a counterattack deep in his own 22, beat several defenders with sheer pace and fed winger Nikora Ewe to score and close the gap to seven points.
But there was to be no miracle recovery, and Buller held on for their first victory of the championship. As in previous losses, Wai-Bush were masters of their own destiny and were too often guilty of basic unforced errors, including several kicks out on the full.
“There were too many unforced errors in the first half, and we gifted them 17 points,” Robinson said.
“In the second half, we had a bit of wind, and we wanted to play territory, but three or four times kicks went directly into touch, and they’re coach killers.”
The loss leaves Wai-Bush in sixth place and still in line for a Lochore Cup home semifinal, with two tough games to play – at home to Whanganui and away to Mid Canterbury.
Buller 27 [Iliesa Tora, George Reeves, Blaine Meikel tries; Jack Parke try, 2 cons, pen]
Wairarapa-Bush 20 [Jayden Keelan, Sam Gammie, Nikora Ewe tries; Tipene Haira pen, con] HT 17-8
Other Heartland Results
King Country 31 Horowhenua-Kapiti 27; Whanganui 40 East Coast 24; West Coast 32 Mid Canterbury 29; Poverty Bay 43 North Otago 50; Thames Valley 31 South Canterbury 36
South Canterbury 30; Thames Valley 25; Whanganui 22; East Coast 20; North Otago 17; Wairarapa-Bush 17; West Coast 16; Mid Canterbury 13; Horowhenua-Kapiti, King Country 11; Poverty Bay 10; Buller 8.
Poverty Bay 5
Wairarapa-Bush overcame a long road trip to trounce Poverty Bay 36–5 in their final round-robin game in the North Island Heartland Women’s Championship.
Roadworks between Napier and the game venue, Wairoa, meant the team arrived at the ground later than expected, forcing a delayed start.
The disruption proved no hindrance, though, as Wai-Bush scored four tries to take a 24–0 lead into halftime. A further two tries in the second spell sealed the comprehensive victory, to the delight of co-coach Scott Collins, who labelled it as a really good all-round performance.
“Poverty Bay were pretty big, and we just tried to keep it away from them, and when they got a bit tired, we moved the ball around,” Collins said
“Poverty Bay scored a well-worked try and could have had a couple of others, but our defence was pretty sound. Our support play around the ruck area was great as well, and we spun the ball around, and we had a good kicking game, too.”
Collins said Kate Donald was a standout again at fullback, while props Jordan Kruger and Paige Walker, who had moved from No. 8 into the front row because of injuries, had strong games.
First-five Lisa Te Moananui controlled the game well and opened the scoring with a classic show and go.
Wai-Bush will play Thames Valley in the third-fourth playoff in Taupo on Saturday.