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Unwanted record beckoning

Sam Siaosi, on the charge against South Canterbury, has been one of the shining lights in a disappointing Wai-Bush campaign. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

Farriers Wairarapa-Bush are on course for an unwanted record in the Heartland Championship unless they quickly find the winning way over the last three rounds.

Languishing at the bottom of the table on two points and without a win, Wai-Bush are in danger of recording a worst ever finish in the championship.

Three times previously, in 2011, 2014, and 2017, the Green and Reds have finished 11th in the 12-team league, winning one game in all three instances, but never have they failed to achieve a victory.

Tipene Haira struggles to break through the South Canterbury defence.

With three games to play, starting with West Coast away on Saturday, followed by East Coast away, and Buller at home, Wai-Bush will be desperate to rescue something from a disappointing campaign and avoid the ignominy of a winless season.

Remarkably though they still have the remotest mathematical chance of making the Lochore Cup semifinals, but realistically those prospects are paper thin.

Even if Wai-Bush win their three remaining games with bonus points, taking them to 17 points, they must still rely on the four teams in the Lochore Cup semifinal positions failing to win, and the draw for the remaining three rounds would suggest that is highly improbable.

The best that Wai-Bush can hope for is to salvage some pride from the remaining three games, plus there is the carrot of a second challenge for the Bill Osborne Taonga – the Heartland unions’ equivalent of the Ranfurly Shield – when they play East Coast in Ruatoria on October 1.

As captain and halfback Daryl Pickering said after Saturday’s 19-73 annihilation by South Canterbury, all three opponents are beatable, but there will need to be significant improvement across the paddock.

South Canterbury highlighted the yawning gap between the top and the bottom and cruelly exposed Wai-Bush’s shortcomings at the breakdown and some woeful backline defence.

There’s good reason why the green and blacks are red hot favourites to win a second consecutive Meads Cup and that was evident with a ruthless display of power rugby from forwards and backs.

There were some encouraging aspects when Wai-Bush had ball in hand, and they scored three good tries.

The scrum held up well, and the lineout was a big improvement from the previous clash with Thames Valley, but their record of conceding 30 or more points in all five games would indicate defence is a major work-on, and there will need to be a big step-up from previous efforts to break the losing streak.

Injuries haven’t helped the side, with the loss of experienced loose forwards James Goodger and Sam Gammie the biggest blow.

Regular captain Goodger is expected back for Saturday’s trip to Greymouth, however, his return is likely to be offset by the loss of starting props Tolu Fahamokioa and Doug Juszczyk, who both suffered leg injuries against South Canterbury.

A win or two, and the potential lifting of the Bill Osborne Taonga, could add a bright light to the end of a dim campaign, but regardless of the results over the final three games, the team have fallen short of their own high expectations.

That should lead to an intriguing end-of-season review, hopefully covering all aspects that have led to the demise of the team that only three seasons ago were unlucky-losing Meads Cup semifinalists.

The starting point should be at the grassroots and the woefully inept premier club competition that has done nothing to physically and mentally prepare the players for the rigours of Heartland Rugby.

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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