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Wai-Bush win wraps up preseason

Ryan Knell, right, scored on fulltime to secure victory for Wai-Bush. PHOTOS/FILE

RUGBY

Wellington Samoans 14
Wairarapa-Bush 22

Nathan Hunt, with ball, made a welcome return to representative rugby scoring two tries.

Farriers Wairarapa-Bush wrapped up their preparation for the Heartland Championship with a hard fought 22-14 win over Wellington Samoans on a heavy Petone Recreation Ground on Saturday.

Wai-Bush coach Mark Rutene was satisfied with the outcome, given the heavy conditions, which made playing free-flowing rugby difficult.

“It was quite a heavy field over there and they had quite a bit of rain,” Rutene said.

“The ball was heavy and there were quite a few missed touch finders because guys couldn’t get any distance on the ball.”

Rutene had to call some late reinforcements into the backline with six players out with injury or illness, and winger Nathan Hunt made the most of his opportunity, scoring two tries and holding his hand up for possible future selection.

The former NZ Heartland XV representative finished off a backline move to open the scoring and dotted down for a second early in the second half in a solid return to the representative scene.

Other five pointers were scored by hooker Sam Siaosi from a lineout drive in the first half, and replacement flanker Ryan Knell to seal the victory for Wai-Bush with a try on fulltime, after the Samoans had fought back to 15-14 with two converted tries.

“We started really well, and we probably dominated territory in the first half and scored a couple of tries but then we leaked one in the last five minutes,” Rutene said.

“It was good to get a win to finish off our preseason. Overall, I’m reasonably pleased where we are at.”

Rutene was particularly impressed with the forward effort against a big and physical Samoan pack.

“Our scrum went well, our lineout went well, and we matched their physicality, so I was pretty pleased,” he said.

“The forward pack is shaping up pretty well, and we’ve got a bit of size there now and there will be some good competition, particularly among the front rowers.”

Zimbabwean international prop Doug Juszczyk, in his first outing in the green and red, and former Tongan international prop Tolu Fahamokioa set a good platform in the first half, while Siaosi continues to impress at hooker.

The main area of concern is the backline, with utility back Tipi Haira, midfielders Nikora Ewe, Charles Mataitai, and Te Kahu Bishop, and outside backs Aseri Waqa, Soli Malatai, and Tristan Flutey on the casualty list, meaning Rutene has been unable to settle on any combinations ahead of the competition kick-off on Sunday night against North Otago at Palmerston North.

“We won’t have a lot of time to get a settled backline because there will be changes again this week with guys coming back from injury, but we will just have to manage that,” he said.

“We’ve had 38 players in the squad and we’re going to have to narrow that down and just getting guys comfortable with each other, particularly around the midfield combination so just making sure they can settle, and everyone is confident what they’re doing.”

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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