Whanganui contingent enjoys Heartland Hurricanes win

By Jared Smith

The tough lessons had been learned by the Heartland Hurricanes Under 20’s and their five Whanganui players, after victory in their last Youth Council Central Region tournament game on Saturday.

Following heavy losses to Wellington Under 19 (69-19) and Manawatu U19 (61-8) in games at Massey University,  the Heartland Hurricanes won the match they had targeted – beating Hawke’s Bay U19 in Napier 31-27.

It was the first victory by the Heartland Hurricanes over Hawke’s Bay since 2017, although the tournament was cancelled in 2020.

Whanganui’s Ezra Malo captained the squad from first-five, in partnership with Dillon Adrole at second-five, while Steelform Whanganui apprentice player Keightley Watson started all three games at prop.

In addition, Rangi Kui was the backs reserve, while coming in for this game specifically was lock Dawson Sisson – who after no rugby since the Whanganui U20’s in early August was called up as injury cover for the bench but graduated into the starting XV on the day.

“He performed very credibly, considering his first training was the captain’s run on Friday,” said team manager Chris Back of Whanganui.

Malo gave a captain’s performance with two tries and a couple of conversions.

“Over the three weeks he really grew into that [role],” said Back.

“As a team, they turned it around.”

Kui also slotted a late conversion after he got onto the field.

Back noted that Watson, the international judo champion who without the opportunity to travel overseas due to Covid would join St Johns Whanganui Metro this season, continues to improve.

“He’s progressed well throughout the assembly. I think he’s learnt a lot in the Hurricanes environment, considering he hasn’t played a lot of rugby.”

Adrole, who has already played a couple of games for the Whanganui senior team in last year’s short campaign, was strong on attack and defence.

Over the three weeks of the tournament, the squad received hands-on training at various times from the Hurricanes Super Rugby coaching staff, including head coach Jason Holland.

“They certainly held their heads up high in the higher grade of rugby,” Back said.

Hopefully the five players will feel like a rematch against Wellington Under 19, because the Whanganui Development XV is travelling to the capital to play them in their last game this Saturday.