Published: 30 Sep 2017 – – Author: David Ogilvie http://www.wanganuionline.com/
Wanganui’s record-breaking 80-3 Heartland Championship rugby win over King Country today set things up nicely for the absolute must-win against Horowhenua-Kapiti next Saturday. David Ogilvie reports:
Break two records and move up only one place on the points table.
Such is life in the Heartland Championship 2017 version, but Wanganui can be well satisfied with effort and accuracy and how the degree of backline experimentation worked against an average King Country outfit at Cooks Gardens today.
After a so-so first 19 minutes in which mistakes were made consistently as the new combinations bedded in, Wanganui hit its straps and ran riot at high speed, scoring 13 tries in winning 80-3, after leading 36-3 at halftime.
The score was a record high in the Meads Cup history, and the margin bigger than the previous record 72, but will mean little if Wanganui cannot put away second-placed Horowhenua-Kapiti at Levin next Saturday.
That match must be won, on the evidence of the present points table, to allow Wanganui a shot at the semis. A loss would probably mean a spot in the second four (Lochore Cup) would be the best that could be achieved – and only after beating one of Wanganui’s bogey teams in North Otago in the last round.
With Horowhenmua-Kapiti playing Wairarapa-Bush on Sunday (and likely to win), the only team previously in front of Wanganui to lose and drop back was Thames Valley, which went down to visiting Mid Canterbury.
But to the game.
The backline combinations took while to settle, but young Cody Hemi eventually made n exellent fist of the first-five spot, and his confidence was in full bloom by the end of the match.
And the move of Craig Clare to centre – probably several weeks late – netted huge dividends in attack especially because King Country had little ball to attack with and frankly their ball skills were terrible.
The only slight concern might be Clare appearing to be slightly favouring a hamstring – a problem that has cursed him.
With powerful go-forward ball, wings Cameron Crowley and Jona Sawailau were also outstanding and Nick Harding at fullback got better as the game went.
So, injuries permitting, Wanganui’s backline was able to gain valuable time together under the leadership of some smart halfback play from Lindsay Horrocks.
Tighthead prop Viki Tofa was the shining star of the pack, a ready runner and strong scrummager.
No 7 Angus Middleton keeps getting better and on the blindside Tremaine Gilbert had one of his best as well.
What was good was the effect the bench had when players like Jaimie Hughes, Kampeli Latu, and newcomer Josh Lane when they took the field
Altogether an entertaining and effective effort. Even the penalty count was heavily in Wanganui’s favour.
But thngs gets serious next Saturday in Levin – although the effect of Horowhenua-Kapiti having one less day to recover could be in Wanganui’s favour. There is no second place in this one – the match has to be won.
Wanganui took the first playing of the “PineTree Log” in this match – the manner of King Country’s defeat would not have please the late Sir Colin Meads, after whom the trophy is named.
Wanganui 80 (Jona Sawailau 2, Cameron Crowley 2, Cody Hemi 2, Timoci Seruwalu 2, Nick Harding, Lindsay Horrocks, Cole Baldwin, Jamie Hughes, Angus Middleton tries; Craig Clare 4con, pen; Harding 2con) bt King Country 3 (Kieran Rollinson pen).HT: 36-3.
Other scores: Buller 54 East Coast 17, North Otago 3 Poverty Bay 12, Mid Canterbury 25 Thames Valley 16, South Canterbury 45 West Coast 38, Wai-Bush v Horo-Kapiti, play Sunday.