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Wai-Bush outmuscled

Wairarapa-Bush 18

Whanganui 36

Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush coach Reece Robinson wouldn’t sugarcoat Saturday’s heavy defeat to Whanganui at Trust House Memorial Park, saying his team was simply outmuscled at times.

The loss was the first home defeat of the season and ended any remote chance of sneaking into the Meads Cup.

Despite failing to pick up any bonus points, Wai-Bush remain in sixth place in the Heartland Championship and on track for a home semifinal in the Lochore Cup.

Wai-Bush showed plenty of fighting spirit against the bigger and more experienced Whanganui but struggled to win the possession battle and spent long periods camped in their own half on defence.

Whanganui’s early dominance led to their big number six Samu Kubunavanua, who was a handful for the home side’s defence all game, strolling in from a tap penalty for the opening try after seven minutes.

Andre Taylor opened the Wai-Bush account with a penalty. The former Hurricane then gave the ‘Green and Reds’ the lead midway through the first half with an intercept try from inside his own 22m, just doing enough to evade the chasing defenders.

However, the match swung the visitors’ way in a 10-minute period either side of halftime when they scored three tries to build a 29–13 lead.

Much of the pressure was brought about by Whanganui forcing three scrum penalties, which resulted in them regaining the lead.

“I thought we had the dominance on them a little bit in the first half, but that 10-minute period at the end of the first half, they put us under the pump,” Robinson said.

“It’s not acceptable; scrummaging is about mindset, and it’s not just individual.”

It took until the 77th minute for Whanganui to score their

fifth try before replacement Wai-Bush halfback Sam Walton-Sexton burrowed over for a consolation five-pointer. In the end, the massive weight of possession and territory in favour of Whanganui proved the difference between the two teams.

Robinson felt his side was outmuscled, especially at the breakdown, although he thought they played well at times but were “extremely poor” at others.

“Poor decisions cost us opportunities, but also from that, it put us under immense pressure because then we had to defend for long periods of time.

“We came up against a really good Whanganui team, and I feel if we had looked after our ball with ball security at the breakdown more and we were a bit stronger over the ball, they wouldn’t have had those opportunities to counter-ruck.”

Robinson was impressed with halfback Isaac Bracewell, who gave good service to his backs and made some scything runs, while he felt Taylor directed play well from first-five, although he lacked match fitness.

Openside flanker Inia Katia had a typically busy game and showed why he was missed over the past two games, while BJ Campbell was solid at No. 8, and hooker Sase Va’a made some strong carries.

Robinson, however, reserved special praise for debutant winger Hayden Cooper, saying the 19-year-old was outstanding and looked like he was a seasoned campaigner, although he could be out with a broken hand.

A win over Mid Canterbury in Ashburton on Saturday would secure a semifinal at Memorial Park, although a loss without any bonus points could see Wai-Bush slip out of contention.

Robinson is hopeful that injured players such as second-five Tafa Tafa, outside back Charles Mataitai, flanker Epeli Rayaqayaqa, and hooker George Parke are sufficiently recovered to make the trip south.

“We have to start our strongest team, and if a couple of guys have got niggles they will have to play with it.

“There’s the opportunity now to train well this week and throw the kitchen sink at them, and if we win, we get a home semi.”

Brief Scores

Wairarapa-Bush 18 [Sam Walton-Sexton try; Andre Taylor try, 2 pens, con] Whanganui 36 [Samu Kubunavanua, Alesana Tofa, Josh Lane, Peceli Malanicagi, Eben Classen tries; Dane Whale 4 cons, pen] HT 13-15

Other Heartland Results

East Coast 29 King Country 11; South Canterbury 50 Mid Canterbury 35; Horowhenua-Kapiti 17 Poverty Bay 31; North Otago 34 Thames Valley 33; Buller 29 West Coast 11

Standings

South Canterbury 35; Thames Valley, Whanganui 27; East Coast 25; North Otago 22; Wairarapa-Bush 17; West Coast 16; Poverty Bay 15; Mid Canterbury 14; Buller 13; Horowhenua-Kapiti, King Country 11

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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