LOSE intensity for any part of a Spriggens Park clash against Integrity Motors Pirates and their two assets which can’t be manufactured – big match experience and natural pace – will take the game away.
Cross-town rivals Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau are blooding a host of youngsters and that was the lesson they were taught in Saturday’s 40-30 loss during the first Tasman Tanning Premier game played at club rugby headquarters this season.
Starting well by being snappy to the breakdown and working off the strong backline combination between Ace Malo, Areta Lama and former Pirate Kameli Kuruyabaki, Kaierau held a 11-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
While Pirates did not have their regular cohesion to build off surging runs, while handling issues and penalties also strangled their momentum, they still proved any sniff of open space will lead to tries.
Both teams gravitated towards their centres to provide the key burst – Kuruyabaki for Kaierau and newcomer S’aena Vili for Pirates, with the former sevens representative Vili scorching over for a hat-trick.
Having blown out to a 40-16 advantage inside the final 10 minutes, Pirates ran out of legs as Kaierau swept in for two late tries to salvage a bonus point.
Those came from Pirates infringement and prospering in broken play, because before then Kaierau were exposed for their inability to secure second and third-phase possession.
“We lost our pattern a little bit,” said Kaierau coach Keith Savell. “Didn’t put the right people in the right positions.”
He was pleased the three 18-year-olds in the forwards had stood up for as long as they did against the Pirates veterans, although maintaining recycled ball is a problem they have identified.
“You just come together in the last couple of weeks.”
Having picked up an important five points after the Taihape loss the previous weekend, while welcoming back linchpin first-five Denning Tyrell for his first game, Pirates coach Phillip Morris knows the gaps in execution he wants to close by June – traditionally when his team hit their straps.
“We didn’t control our strike ball. It was poor decision making that first 15 minutes.
“It’s game two of 14. We know we’re behind the eight ball in physical conditioning.”
Still, even without setting up solid platforms, Pirates are still a danger out wide as Vili and winger Savanalal Takavesi proved with some strong runs from the sweeper position after Kaierau began resorting to constant grubber and chip kicks to get out of their half.
“You’ve got to have gas if you’ve got grunt up front,” said Morris.
Malo kicked Kaierau to a 6-0 advantage after seven minutes before Pirates scored off their first real possession – Tyrell drifting across following a lineout and finding Vili on the angle to bump off two tacklers and score.
Kaierau still had the momentum and replied in the 18th minute as Kuruyabaki ran an excellent line to draw three defenders and put winger Hoani Pahl-Long over in the corner.
Takavesi then showed his flair as he claimed a Kaierau bomb near halfway and skirted outside the defence to set up Vili dashing away for his second.
Pirates had flipped the momentum as their two leaders – Tyrell and captain Lasa Ulukuta – worked off the scrum and even though the inside pass was loose, Ulukuta still smashed his way over for 19-11.
Pirates were making the better running after halftime, while Kuruyabaki became Kaierau’s sole chance of a breakout in a messy third quarter.
After both teams counterattacked off mistakes, Tyrell tried an attacking bomb inside his half, only for reserve winger Karl Pascoe, back on the local club scene, to cover it.
Kuruyabaki’s attempted grubber was blocked but Pascoe snatched it up and went hard at the corner flag for 19-16.
However, it proved only a momentary recovery as another Kaierau raid set up by big lock Semi Kedrawaca and carried on by Lama came unstuck, then Tyrell went blindside from the scrum and put Vili in the gap.
He fed reserve winger Clive Stowers and got it back from him after an ankle tap for Vili to score the best try of his hat trick.
Tyrell was again probing from a 10m scrum and found halfback Ricky Boniface inside him to stretch out for 33-16.
Pirates seemed to have sealed an emphatic win when second-five Patrick Hiscox ran through a gap and put up a pinpoint chipkick for fullback Josia Dawai to waltz under the posts with eight minutes left.
But that was still enough time for Malo to instigate a breakout with Pascoe, who once Kaierau were on attack, stepped through and scored by the posts.
Pirates were concerned when Stowers was knocked silly attempting a hard tackle, and then Kaierau got up for their fourth try when Malo finished off a series of free kicks to beat his man and dive over.
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle