Sam Morison carries strongly against Mid Canterbury. The young first-five continues to grow in confidence. PHOTO/FILE
Guildford still on sidelines
Farrier Wairarapa-Bush must score a bonus-point win over West Coast today to keep alive their slim chances of making one of the three finals in the Heartland Championship.
Wai-Bush are 10th of the 12 teams on one point at the halfway stage of the championship and will probably need the maximum 20 points from their remaining four games to sneak into the fifth-sixth final. West Coast are two places higher on six points.
Wai-Bush showed enough in the 18-28 loss against Mid Canterbury last Saturday, especially in the first half when they spent most of it on attack and took a 15-7 lead, to give coach Mark Rutene confidence that the first win could come this afternoon at Trust House Memorial Park.
“The thing that is encouraging is that we’re improving each week,” said Rutene.
“We were making the gain line all the time in the first half, so that’s getting better and better. But last week we probably left 15 points on the park, we knocked the ball on, we lost crucial lineouts.
“When we attack, our decision-making and composure have to be better, and we need to be more clinical in their zone.”
Tackling was another area where improvement was needed after the big Mid Canterbury ball-runners took full toll of missed tackles at crucial times.
Rutene has named an unchanged starting line-up for the first time in the campaign, with the only changes on the substitutes bench.
The versatile Inia Katia returns after serving a three-match suspension after his red card in the first game against Thames Valley. The veteran Fijian provides several options with his ability to play anywhere in the backline. His speed and unpredictability made him a potential match-winner late in the game.
“When you’ve got a tiring defence, he’s good around the ruck, and he does a lot of work over the ball, so it’s good to have him back.”
Rutene hopes to have powerful prop Tupou Lea’aemanu on the bench, although he rates the big Tongan only a 50-50 proposition because of a niggling lower leg injury.
Should Lea’aemanu fail his fitness test, rugged Gladstone loose forward Ryan Knell will come on the bench, and No 8 Sam Gammie will cover prop – a position he has previously played in for Wai-Bush.
“Ideally, we would have Tupou on the bench because he’s a specialist tight forward, and Sam can fill in, but he’s probably more value to us at No 8 at the moment.”
One player still sidelined is former All Black Zac Guildford, who is battling a calf injury and has yet to play in the Heartland Championship.
Rutene knows little about the West Coast side, other than they have a 2m lock Sam Liebezeit, who was in the NZ Heartland XV that Rutene coached.
“They’ve only won one game, so they will be desperate to come up here and get another win. We’re desperate to deny them that, and we’ve got to get on the board. Hopefully it’s this weekend.”
The TAB has Wai-Bush slight favourites at $1.75 to win their first game with West Coast at $1.95.
The match will kick off at 2.30pm today at Memorial Park and livestreamed on the Wai-Bush Facebook page.
Wairarapa-Bush team: Tafa Tafa, Soli Malatai, Ueta Tufuga, Tipene Haira, Moomoo Falaniko, Sam Morison, Isaac Bracewell, Sam Gammie, Johan van Vliet [captain], BJ Campbell, Vesi Luatua, Andrew McLean, Lewis Bush, Henry Wilson, Jeramiah Mapasua.
Replacements: Terongo Tekii, Tupou Lea’aemanu [Ryan Knell], Dominic Herlihy, Matt Perry, Inia Katia, Daryl Pickering, Fiula Tameilau.