Wanganui Development XV retained the RDO Shield for the third year in a row after executing strongly in the middle portions of the second half to run out 22-11 winners over Wairarapa Bush Development in the Cooks Gardens curtain-raiser on Saturday.
Other than the loss in the knock-around game with Steelform Wanganui in Ohakune, the win completed an unbeaten season for the second string XV, the first under new coach Ross Williams.
The game substituted for an actual competition final as both teams came in undefeated.
Wairarapa Bush first-five Himiona Haira and Wanganui centre Te Tua Kemp traded penalties for the visitors to lead 6-3 after 14 minutes.
Wanganui then uncorked a great try in the wet conditions as first-five Bronson Tumai threw the long pass to link with the outside runners, with the ball fed to halfback Kane Tamou who sprinted 50m to score in the 29th minute.
Wairarapa Bush attacked after the break and after losing the ball over the line following 10 minutes of pounding, they quickly forced the turnover and centre Robbie Anderson crashed over in the corner.
Having played with little territory, Wanganui finally began to get some traction, helped when reserve Steelie Koro, who had rushed back from a work appointment 30 minutes after the game started, got on to the field – much as he would for the Wanganui seniors later in the day.
The game changer came in the 57th minute as Wairarapa Bush miscued a clearing kick, and nuggety winger Tom Symes came forward to make a brilliant catch and beat his man in the same motion, diving over to give Wanganui back the lead, 15-11.
Feeling it now, Wanganui got back on attack and trapped Wairarapa Bush in-goal for a 5m scrum.
A few phases later, the Wanganui senior’s wider-squad prop Tawhiro Gupwell bounced out of two tacklers to crash in beside the posts, although he stayed down after a nasty blow to the face.
Play was fairly scrappy from both sides in the final 12 minutes, but Wanganui were home and hosed.
“It’s pleasing really, in the tough conditions,” said Williams.
“The lead-in was not great with a bye and the default. At Thursday training we were reminding them how to play it.
“We eventually got into it – we’ve got a lot of firepower in our outside backs.
“When [Koro] turned up, he added a lot more direction.”
Williams said he was proud the team had been as cohesive as they were, given they came from so many different local clubs.
Wanganui Development XV 22 (Kane Tamou, Tom Symes, Tawhio Gupwell tries; Te Tua Kemp pen, 2 con)
beat Wairapapa Bush Development XV 11 (Robbie Anderson try; Himiona Haira 2 pen)
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle