A punishing double tackle from Wairarapa-Bush players Michael Lealava’a, left, and Matt Henderson during the match against Thames Valley, but defence was a weakness for the home team. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Wairarapa-Bush will be spending plenty of time working on tackle technique and defensive mindset this week after leaking 44 points against Thames Valley on Saturday in Masterton.

The 32-44 loss was more one-sided than the final score would indicate. It was only a late fightback that brought some respectability to the scoreboard after Thames Valley led 30-13 at halftime.

Wairarapa-Bush made the perfect start to the match when first five-eighth Glen Walters stabbed a grubber kick through from an attacking position, and left winger Nick Olson gathered the ball to score close to the posts.

Thames Valley closed the gap through two successful penalty goals, before Wairarapa-Bush added one of their own.

But in the 20th minute Thames Valley took the lead with their first try of the match, and added three more before the break.

Second five-eighth Shaun Hill and No 8 Alex Bradley were particularly damaging for the visitors, constantly getting their team on the front foot with hard, straight running.

Thames Valley extended their lead with a converted try after halftime, before Wairarapa-Bush finally found their attacking spark.

Centre Michael Lealava’a attacking for Wairarapa-Bush against Thames Valley during the second half fightback.

Replacement flanker Epeli Rayaqayaqa scored after a strong series of phases, but Thames Valley responded immediately to push their lead out to 44-18.

Wairarapa-Bush did score two late consolation tries – one a penalty try and the other to captain James Goodger – to at least secure a bonus point for scoring four tries in the match.

Wairarapa-Bush assistant coach Deon van Deventer said the defensive lapses were frustrating.

“Once they got past us we were on the back foot and after the match we talked about personal responsibility.

“We are not the biggest team in the competition and one-on-one tackles is one of our biggest issues. Personal responsibility for tackle technique is important.”

The players are given 20 minutes before each training session to work on individual skills, and tackling may now take priority over passing and kicking.

Van Deventer was happy with the way the team had responded in the second half, but said they could not afford to dig themselves into such a hole in the first place.

“When we moved them around – especially in the first part of the first half – then we found space.

“We came back in the second half but when you’re 30-13 behind, it’s a big ask to come back and we made it too easy for them at times.”

In the curtain-raiser, the Wairarapa-Bush Development team was beaten 36-53 by Wellington Maori Development.

Heartland Results

Thames Valley 44, Wairarapa-Bush 32; Wanganui 33, West Coast 21; King Country 30, Buller 28; Horowhenua-Kapiti 46, East Coast 8; North Otago 34, Mid Canterbury 33; South Canterbury 40, Poverty Bay 11.