Wairarapa-Bush celebrate their victory in the Hurricanes Heartland U-20 championship. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Desperate defence has seen Wairarapa-Bush hold on to beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 23-22 and win the Hurricanes’ Heartland Under-20 Championship.

There was further reward with five players named in the Hurricanes’ Heartland Under-20 squad.

Props Stan Wright and Lewis Bush, loose forwards Zach Wakefield and Joseph Gordon, and first-five Raniera Petersen will prepare for games against Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, and Manawatu over the next three weekends.

Wai-Bush went into the weekend’s two games in Palmerston North full of confidence after a 57-12 thrashing of Whanganui the previous Saturday.

On Saturday, Wai-Bush overcame a slow start to beat Poverty Bay 52-14.

Poverty Bay made much of the early running but could not break the stubborn Wai-Bush defence.

Wai-Bush made the most of their opportunities to score four tries for a 26-7 lead at the interval.

A further four tries in the second half resulted in the final score of 52-14.

Tries were scored by Adam Gordon, Matthew Masoe [2], Fynn Ellmers, Wakefield, Curtis Krivan, Cameron Percy and Raniera Peterson.

The win set up a final with Horowhenua-Kapiti who had a resounding 61-12 win over Whanganui.

Wai-Bush were strengthened for Sunday’s final game with the return of speedy halfback Bryan Arnold and winger Logan Prendeville-Heberton after they had played for the Heartland team against the Wellington Development team on Saturday.

The decider turned out to be a nailbiter.

Wai-Bush took an early lead through a Jeremy Osborne penalty on four minutes.

Tries to Prendeville-Heberton and prop Stan Wright and a further penalty to Raniera Pederson extended Wai-Bush’s lead to 16-5 at the break.

The second half was only six minutes old when Arnold scored next to the posts to give Jeremy Osborne a simple conversion and Wai-Bush a 23-5 lead with 33 minutes remaining.

That triggered Horowhenua-Kapiti into action.

Holding the edge out wide, Horowhenua-Kapiti produced several telling raids that had them score three tries and a conversion to make the score 23-22 with just four minutes left to play.

A final break-out by Horowhenua-Kapiti looked like it might be enough to snatch a late come-from-behind win but desperate cover defence resulted in a try-saving tackle into touch.

Wai-Bush maintained possession and denied Horowhenua-Kapiti back-to-back titles by the closest of margins and record their first victory at the tournament in 12 attempts.