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Wai-Bush outclassed

Wai-Bush fullback Aseri Waqa struggles to break through the tackle of Tomasi Bikaca. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

Wairarapa-Bush 19
South Canterbury 73

It took just five minutes for South Canterbury to signal that Saturday would be a long day at the office for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush in their Heartland Championship match at Trust House Memorial Park.

That’s all it took for the unbeaten championship favourites to run in their first two tries – to second-five Ramuwai Sainivalati from a quick tap penalty close to the line, and the second to big No 8 Siu Kakala almost immediately from the restart.

The home side struggled to get their hands on the ball for long periods and when they did, a handling error or breakdown infringement, an aspect where referee Maggie Cogger-Orr was particularly attentive, gifted more possession to South Canterbury, who profited by scoring four more tries for a 40-0 lead.

Wai-Bush looked good when they did manage to retain possession, and they finally got some reward when hard-working flanker Jared Hawkins crashed over near the posts, only for fullback Liueli Simote to stroll through a gaping hole in defence for South Canterbury’s seventh try on the stroke of halftime.

A record score against looked likely when outstanding first-five Sam Briggs cruised through a tiring defence two minutes into the second half.

Credit though to Wai-Bush, who never gave up and worked hard on defence to restrict the visitors to only three more tries, as well as scoring two of their own. The first was a brilliant individual effort by replacement first-five Aidan Champion, who grubber-kicked through the defence, regathered and ran 20m to score, and the second was with a minute left when replacement halfback Sam Walton-Sexton dived over from a ruck close to the line.

There was still time for Wai-Bush to salvage a bonus point for scoring four tries, but South Canterbury won possession from the kick off and had the final say with Dan Patterson diving over for their 11th try.

Wai-Bush captain Daryl Pickering was philosophical about the result, but praised his team’s resolve against a seriously good South Canterbury outfit.

“Giving away 40-odd points in that first half it’s hard to come back from, and we could have fallen over in that second half but we stood up and scored a couple of tries and the boys never stopped trying and I suppose that’s all you can ask,” Pickering said.

“They’re obviously the firm favourites for a reason and from what we’ve come up against they’re a step ahead of everyone else, and yes they’re a quality side, and they make our big boys look tiny.

“Once we get on the front foot we showed with that try in the first half we scored we can be hard to stop if we get enough pill, but as soon as it was turned over they just capitalised on our little mistakes.”

Tupou Lea’aemanu, who started at blindside flank and moved into prop after the loss of Tolu Fahamokioa and Doug Juszcyk, both with what looked like serious leg injuries, was the best on the park for the home side with outstanding defence and some huge carries.

Big hooker Sam Siaosi was also a strong carrier, while winger Tristan Flutey threatened with his limited opportunities.

Despite the open nature of the game it was riddled with penalties. Cogger-Orr, who was officiating in her first men’s first-class match, dished out close to 30 penalties, heavily in favour of South Canterbury, and many blown very quickly at the breakdown, frustrating the small crowd.

Wai-Bush finish the season with away games to West Coast, and East Coast, which will double as a challenge for the Bill Osborne Taonga, and a home game against Buller, and Pickering said the team are determined to show some pride and finish on a high.

“We’ve got three games left and they’re all games we can win against sides that are beatable so we’ve just got to stay together.

“There are a few more injuries this week and that’s probably not going to help the depth of our squad but we’ll turn up next week and go again.”

Although the scoreline was one of the biggest conceded by Wai-Bush, it is not a record, falling short of the 79-7 hiding to Whanganui in 2017.

Wai-Bush remain rooted to the bottom of the table on two points, with their next game against the only other winless side, West Coast, on Saturday in Greymouth.

BRIEF SCORES

Wairarapa-Bush 19 [Jared Hawkins, Sam Walton-Sexton tries; Aidan Champion try, con; Tipene Haira con] South Canterbury 73 [Siu Kakala [2], Liueli Simote [2], Graison Dale, Garrett Casey, Anthony Amato, Ramuwai Sainavalati, Conor Anderson, Malakai Uasi tries; Sam Briggs try, 9 cons] HT 7-47

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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