Match Center

Whanganui RFU

South Canterbury

28

Whanganui RFU

14
Heartland Championship October 23, 2021 @ 2:30 pm Timaru

By Jared Smith

On any other day, in any other season. But not this time.

Unless a miracle happens in Te Aroha next weekend, Steelform Whanganui will not be going back to the Meads Cup final in 2021, after a deflating 28-14 loss to unbeaten South Canterbury in Timaru on Saturday.

In a truncated Bunnings Heartland Championship season without semifinals, Whanganui were in must-win mode for the trip down south, and took the gamble of playing into a very influential Alpine Energy Stadium breeze for the first half.

In previous trips to Timaru, specifically the 2015 Meads Cup final, Whanganui have dazzled the southerners with some Fijian flyers brilliance, but this time, it was the home side’s speedsters out wide who did maximum damage.

In a nightmare start, Whanganui got the territory, but eagerness to shift the ball led to two steals with the wingers Kalavini Leatigaga and hat-trick scorer Sireli Buliruarua making them pay instantaneously by dashing away for over-60m tries.

On the first, a loose pass from halfback Lindsay Horrocks from the ruck missed two receivers and was snatched up by South Canterbury flanker and captain Nick Strachan to fire straight to Buliruarua – who sprinted off for 7-0 in the fifth minute against the run on play.

Then, a flat pass on the blindside by centre Kameli Kuruyabaki as gobbled up by Leatigaga, who had a 15m head start on everybody, and while Whanganui winger Alekesio Vakarorogo motored across from the far side to make a great cover tackle, his fellow No11 was able to bounce over and score.

In an game that was an intense staring contest, Whanganui had another ‘blink’ moment when on their try-line a simple missed Vakarorogo tackle was all Buliruarua needed to stagger through and dive in for 21-0 in 17 minutes.

As well as the pinched balls for turnaround tries hurting, Whanganui tried to overcome the wind through veteran first-five Craig Clare attempting cut-out balls, cross and chip kicks, with South Canterbury seemingly inviting tempting space a little further wide.

It ultimately proved a trap.

Whanganui might have been able to withstand 21-0 at halftime, knowing they would then get the big wind behind their kickers, but four minutes from the break, No8 Semi Vodosese couldn’t hang onto a midfield cut-out pass, and South Canterbury immediately fired it out to Buliruarua, with Leatigaga at his side.

The wingers uncorked a brilliant kick-chase try, with Buliruarua getting the recovered ball back from Leatigaga to just dive straight over near the posts.

Heartland’s leading points scorer Sam Briggs slotted his fourth straight conversion, and other than those four key moments, all the home side had to do was defend hard, look for turnovers, and then harness the wind to put Whanganui back in their own territory.

Coming into the second half and the sinners all made amends – Horrocks producing a great steal at the back of a 5m South Canterbury scrum to feed flanker Jamie Hughes to dive over in the 47th minute.

Kuruyabaki made some powerful runs, Whanganui getting the better of time in South Canterbury’s half as second-five Ethan Robinson produced some strong kicks, while reserve midfielder Timoci Seruwalu came on to start busting tackles.

With Biggs down injured in the attacking line, Robinson put fullback Dane Whale through the gap, who set up Vakarorogo running in at the corner to score, with Robinson slotting a good conversion for 28-14 in the 63rd minute.

South Canterbury, again smartly, did everything they could to slow play down, while defending grimly in their half, using the clock as their 16th man.

Entering the last ten minutes, Whanganui needed to score immediately, at least for a bonus point before having a shot at the equalising seven-pointer, and received a succession of infringement penalties.

But South Canterbury tackled hard and forced two big mistakes, which was followed by a scrum penalty, and after their forwards drove nearly 30m into Whanganui’s half from the lineout win, the visitors had run out of territory and time.

Disappointed Whanganui coach Jason Caskey knew his side had left themselves too much to do.

“Two intercepts, made us chase our tail a lot. 60m at the other end makes the day tough.

“The biggest problem, there was space there, but we just couldn’t get to it. They defended the inside.”

Twice bitten, thrice shy, after the stolen tries Caskey said Whanganui were “shell-shocked” and started going with constant one-off runners, which suited the Cantabrians big pack just fine.

Briggs and veteran halfback Willie Wright, followed by his deputy Theo Davidson, took care of the rest.

“Knowing the ground, they took some real big yardage off us,” said Caskey.

“We had to make the most of every point we needed, but fell short a couple of times on the line.”

While other results in Round 6 of the competition going their way meant Whanganui still holds third place, they are now 10 points behind South Canterbury and eight behind future opponent Thames Valley, who just have to negotiate a home derby game against winless King Country this coming weekend.

The teams that finish third and fourth will contest the Lochore Cup final – the secondary Heartland trophy Whanganui held once in 2014.

“We’ve just got to box on and see what happens,” said Caskey.

On the injury front, lock Josh Lane hurt his shoulder and neck from a fall at the lineout.

South Canterbury 2️⃣8️⃣ Whanganui 1️⃣4️⃣

South Canterbury’s 1,100th first class match
South Canterbury 28(Sireli Buliruarua 3, Kalavini Leatigaga tries; Sam Briggs 4 con)
bt Whanganui 14 (Jamie Hughes, Alekesio Vakarorogo tries; Ethan Robinson 2 con). HT: 28-0.

South Canterbury 28 - 14 Whanganui RFU

  • Saturday 23 October 2021 @ 2:30 pm
  • Heartland Championship 
  • Timaru
41
Played
26
Won
2
Drawn
13
Lost

Previous meetings

11 Aug 94 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 09 - 00
22 Sep 04 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 00 - 05
08 Aug 08 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 16 - 08
17 Aug 11 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 16 - 03
02 Sep 20 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 08 - 06
02 Sep 22 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 08 - 11
23 Sep 25 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 15 - 23
30 Jul 27 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 28 - 06
23 Jul 30 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 08 - 13
14 Aug 48 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 03 - 09
20 Aug 49 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 13 - 03
03 Sep 52 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 05 - 13
15 Sep 54 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 10 - 16
04 Sep 56 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 11 - 09
23 Sep 58 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 21 - 11
07 Sep 60 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 41 - 09
05 Sep 62 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 14 - 11
08 Sep 65 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 19 - 09
30 Aug 66 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 17 - 17
17 Jul 73 2:30 pm Representative South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 27 - 12
13 Sep 75 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 10 - 07
21 Aug 85 2:30 pm Representative Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 23 - 09
22 Sep 87 2:30 pm NPC Div2 South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 29 - 04
29 Aug 89 2:30 pm NPC Div3 South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 21 - 24
23 Aug 97 2:30 pm NPC Div2 Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 14 - 14
14 Sep 02 2:30 pm NPC Div3 Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 16 - 21
13 Sep 03 2:30 pm NPC Div3 South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 20 - 22
11 Oct 03 2:30 pm NPC Div3 South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 13 - 17
09 Sep 06 2:30 pm Heartland Championship Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 11 - 05
08 Sep 07 2:30 pm Heartland Championship South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 08 - 30
03 Oct 09 2:30 pm Heartland Championship - Meads Cup Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 59 - 14
28 Aug 10 2:30 pm Heartland Championship Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 13 - 06
13 Aug 11 5:00 pm Heartland Championship South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 18 - 28
07 Sep 13 5:00 pm Heartland Championship Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 24 - 23
23 Aug 14 5:00 pm Heartland Championship South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 31 - 18
24 Oct 15 5:00 pm Meads Cup Final South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 11 - 28
10 Sep 16 5:00 pm Heartland Championship Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 32 - 30
16 Sep 17 2:30 pm Heartland Championship South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 21 - 17
21 Oct 17 2:30 pm Heartland Championship (S/F) Meads Cup South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 24 - 29
25 Aug 18 2:30 pm Heartland Championship Whanganui RFU v South Canterbury 21 - 10
23 Oct 21 2:30 pm Heartland Championship South Canterbury v Whanganui RFU 28 - 14