Manawatu Academy stars too good for young Wanganui Development XV
Pics supplied by Sarah Lourie Photography
By Jared Smith
It was a big step up in power and execution for the makeshift Wanganui Development XV against Manawatu Academy on Wednesday night, who dominated 37-17 in the rain at Cooks Gardens. (Match Video at Bottom)
A well-drilled unit with familiarity, Manawatu had a big advantage over the second-tier Wanganui side, which due to injuries and unavailability had to re-jig their lineup multiple times from the squad initially named to train on Monday night.
Interestingly, the bulk of the Wanganui players originally selected who still fronted were the younger talents from Tasman Tanning Senior rugby and the St Johns Wanganui Metro team – meaning they were being asked to step up several levels against the visitors, who included Manawatu Turbos extended squad members, promising Colts, and Senior 1 club players – their equivalent of Tasman Tanning Premier.
On a difficult night for wet ball-handling and goal kicking, Manawatu Academy scored seven tries to blow the score out to 37-7, before the Development XV finished with a flourish to claim two late tries and close the gap.
Fresh off winning the Premier title with Waverley Harvesting Border, Toby Lennox grabbed a double by getting low on the drive close to the line, while his locking partner Brad O’Leary looked to impose himself – giving away a couple of penalties but managing to trap Manawatu’s powerful forwards a handful of times.
Schoolboy first-five Logan Blackburn did the best he could under pressure from bigger opponents charging up quick at first receiver, while reserve back Ioani Aki and reserve forward Dawson Sisson made some good carries when they came off the bench for the final quarter.
Well marked all night, second-five Dillon Adrole powered through three tacklers to score an excellent try on fulltime.
Not initially going to be involved in representative footy, veteran prop Viki Tofa answered the call and likewise came on late to help hookers Jack Yarrall and Kohlt Coveny, along with fellow prop Jack van Bussel in steadying a scrum which was getting monstered.
Manawatu’s double try-scoring No8 Julian Goerke and rampaging flanker Dylan Hall dominated off the ruck with massive yards gained on the burst.
Showing an excellent passing game, Manawatu’s other tries included fullback Jayden Keelan’s mid-air dive at the corner flag, second-five Toroa Rapana running in off a tap-kick, and towering lock Ofa Tauatevalu busting two defenders on the line.
Reserve back Leyton Manuel took advantage of an ill-conceived chip kick from Wanganui’s own 22m to snatch the bounce and outstrip the cover defenders to the corner.
Of course, the local fans watching at Cooks Gardens got to play another game of ‘spot the expat’, as Manawatu fielded former Wanganui age grade representatives and Collegiate 1st XV alumni in hooker Ben Strang, loose forward Jason Myers and goal-kicking first-five Te Atawhai Mason.
All three are high-powered personnel looking to take the next step in their careers – Mason and Strang being 2019 Hurricanes Under 18 camp attendees, with Strang going onto to represent NZ Secondary Schools, while Myers captained the NZ Heartland Under 19 squad.
The scoreline could have been higher if the difficult wind and rain had not kept Mason to one conversion from five attempts, while Manuel fared no better when he took over.
But given their makeshift nature and the horrible conditions, Development XV coach Carl Gibson couldn’t fault his side’s effort.
“Considering they’re playing a whole lot of guys who are Academy, who have had three games together already, and been training for 4-5 weeks after they finished their club rugby, I thought our guys showed a lot of courage.
“One game and one training on Monday night, and then guys being injured and not around…you just have to work with what you’ve got.”
Initially, three members of the 2020 Steelform Wanganui squad were going to play, however precautions on minor injuries meant only No8 Semi Vodosese took part and did both lineout jumping and carries off the ruck, with the ball like a bar of soap at times.
But without any other representative levels in a Covid-19 effected season, Gibson was content the teenagers from Senior rugby and Metro got at least one chance on a bigger platform.
“I actually think that’s really good for Wanganui; those guys have chosen their clubs and they’re loyal to their clubs [in Senior], but they still get an opportunity to come and have a crack.
“There’s some good players in our team that stood up tonight; with a bit more go-forward ball they might have had a bit more opportunity.”
Manawatu Academy 37 (J Goerke 2, J Keelan, D Hall, T Rapana, O Tauatevalu, L Manuel tries; T Mason con) bt Wanganui Development XV 17 (T Lennox 2, D Adrole tries; L Blackburn con). HT: 22-7.
Other News from around the Parks
BARBARIANS: Whanganui Collegiate 1st XV’s tandem of first-five Harry Godfrey (below) and halfback Adam Lennox are the only schoolboys from a Heartland union chosen among 50 players for the 2020 NZ Barbarians Under 18 squad. After regional development camps next week, the players will travel to Hamilton to split into two squads for a one-off match on October 9 of an Andy Haden XV vs Alan Whetton XV, teams named after the All Black legends. Twenty-nine schools from 12 unions are represented. Skipper Godfrey and Lennox played key roles in Collegiate finishing third in the truncated Central North Island 1st XV season.
CYCLONES: The Manawatu Cyclones will feel a lot more confident going into their away Farah Palmer Cup game with the Wellington Pride on Friday afternoon after a convincing 88-0 thrashing of Tasman in Palmerston North on Sunday morning. WRFU development officer Sosoli Talawadua scored two of her team’s 14 tries at prop. Fullback Selica Winiata had a 23 point haul from a try and nine conversions. Kickoff against Wellington is 4.35pm, live on Sky Sport 1.