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22nd August: Steelform Wanganui 39 – 34 Horowhenua Kapiti


David Ogilvie was in Levin today to watch Wanganui make a spectacular start to the Heartland Rugby Championship. His report from

At Levin: Steelform Wanganui 39 (Daniel Fitzgerald 2, Stephen Perofeta, Poasa Waqanibau, Fraser Hammond, Kane Tamou tries; Perofeta pen, con, Zyon Hekenui 2con) bt Horowhenua-Kapiti 34 (penalty try; Michael Tambour, Brandyn Laursen, Dave Mcerlean, Tipu Luke tries; Laursen 3con, pen). HT: 15-all.

Wanganui regained the Bruce Steel Cup (right) , celebrated skipper Peter Rowe’s 100th match for the union and Fraser Hammond’s 50th by knocking over the highly fancied Horowhenua Kapiti 39-34 at Levin in a match that had large mistakes galore, glorious tries aplenty and included a sense of drama throughout that upset a few and thrilled the others.DSC00001

Wanganui often looked to be on the losing end but found a way to conquer an opponent that looked a little better organised but could not handle the frequent doses of the unexpected that Wanganui’s mixture of nationalities were able to produce.

Make no mistake about it, Wanganui will, at the very least, keep the interest high this season – the side will not be boring because these players do no know how to be that.

There were four drops of kicked balls behind their own goal-line, leading to the suffering of intense pressure. But usually they escaped the noose.

There were long range tries, usually down the left where Fijian winger Samu Kubunavnua was liable to do anything – and usually got away with it. Collegiate schoolboy Stephen Perofeta had a mixed start at fullback but suddenly burst into life with a startling runaway try down the right in the first spell and a pressure long range penalty in the second.

And when the Fijian mix of the team had been together for a while, Kubunavanua, centre Poasa Waqanibau, off-the-bench Michael Nabuliwaqa and loosies Malakai Volau and replacement Renato Tikoilosolomone really started to put some little acts of magic together.

The glue was supplied by man of the match Daniel Fitzgerald, skipper Peter Rowe and hooker Cole Baldwin – they provided much of the grunt.

Unfortunately though, Fitzgerald suffered a severe shoulder dislocation in the final minute and his season may well be over. And loosehead prop Brett Turneer, after a solid 30-odd minutes, appears to have done a rib cartilage and his season may also be over.

So it wasn’t all great news. Next Saturday sees Mid Canterbury arrive at Cooks Gardens, and they were impressive in beating South Canterbury today.

Then we go to Oamaru and everyone knows the trouble Wanganui has winning down there!

So replacements have to be found – and probably a loan player or two because Wanganui played today without one.

The tight forward area is one that has to be strengthened after the injuries.

Other points of worry were the defence which let in five tries – several times players massed in trying to stop one man and left gaps out wide.

But that can all be fixed and changes are unlikely except those that have been forced.

The lineout was good, the scrum much better, and Hammond’s inclusion helped both these.

So there is enough sting in the Wanganui tail to worry any opposition, as long as the injuries do not continue.

This was a top win, despite the errors. This side will entertain, and it will frustrate.

Be prepared to take both.

In the curtain-raiser the Wanganui Development side beat Horowhenua 68-27, and the Wanganui U20s beat a combined Poverty Bay-East Coast team 72-12 on the coast.

Other Heartland scores:
Buller 32 v 20 King Country
East Coast 15 v 60 Poverty Bay
Mid Canterbury 34 v 17 South Canterbury
North Otago 17 v 16 West Coast
Thames Valley 36 v 09 Wairarapa Bush

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