Steelform Wanganui’s players all stood out and their schoolboy first-five turned in a maestro performance as the New Zealand Heartland XV just held off NZ Marist 47-42 in a high quality McCrea Cup clash at Masterton’s Trust House Memorial Park on Saturday evening.
Played as warmup to the start of Heartland’s two-game series with the Australian Barbarians tomorrow night in Levin, Heartland started with two quick tries, before both teams scored back-and-forth points for 31-14 at halftime.
Heartland pulled away to 41-14 entering the final quarter, but on the speedy artificial turf, the Marist team got back into it with some good tries, closing the gap to five points inside the final minute, with Heartland defending a late penalty to finish the match.
“The ball bounced [Marist’s] way a couple of times which led to tries, then they made a couple of good moves that led to tries,” said Heartland manger Chris Back about the comeback.
Both Back and Wanganui’s NZ Marist coach Jason Hamlin heaped praise on 18-year-old Stephen Perofeta, who on debut contributed 27 points from a try, five conversions, three penalties and what Hamlin called a “ridiculous” 45m drop goal.
“He had a hell of a game,” said Back.
“I imagine he’ll be well in the running to start one, if not both [Australian] games.”
Wanganui’s Heartland hooker Cole Baldwin was also among the tryscorers, while loose forwards Bryn Hudson and Fraser Hammond continue to enjoy playing on that open Memorial Park track.
Halfback Lindsay Horrocks was exceptional, distributing well and willingly tackling Marist’s 6ft tall Fijians front on.
On the Marist side of the equation, Wanganui’s Simon Dibben saved some tries on the wing and made the chip-and-chase which led Marist getting a penalty try, while prop Viki Tofa played very well against his bigger opposites.
“We found our feet and really got going towards the end,” said Hamlin. “They ticked all the boxes for everyone concerned. We wanted to validate the Marist thing and keep [McCrea Cup] going, and [Heartland] played a good game ahead of the Australian games. The ground seems to generate a lot of open rugby.”
North Otago’s Lemi Masoe also scored two tries for the Heartland team. The 23-man squad to face the Australians will be announced today.
Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle