By Jared Smith
Steelform Wanganui has taken the first step to regaining the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup after they clicked into gear during the second half for a 36-7 win over Horowhenua-Kapiti in Shannon on Saturday.
Going with a forwards-heavy lineup due to a number of squad injuries, Wanganui could not quite take advantage of the notable first half breeze at Shannon Domain, as their first try didn’t come until the 37th minute from first-five Dane Whale, converted by fullback Craig Clare to follow-up his 25th minute penalty.
Horowhenua-Kapiti were then able to close the gap to 10-7 straight after halftime as a kick ahead took a tough bounce right beside the touchline for the defenders, being hacked forward with the home side winning the race to the ball.
But then going into the breeze, Wanganui lifted as standout centre Josiah Bogileka scored straight after Horowhenua-Kapiti’s try to regain the advantage.
In the 52nd minute, big second-five Timoci Seruwalu scored against the team he has played for on loan for the previous two seasons, and then in the 67th minute Clare ran in for a brilliant 90m try.
Wanganui sealed it with Clare’s double right on fulltime, with the conversion giving him a 21-point haul.
Coach Jason Caskey said early handling errors prevented the side from taking control until after the break.
“We had a very poor first half actually.
“It was the ball going away from you a bit, probably a bit guilty of snatching at it.
“After that, it was pretty much we had control of the game and defended well.
“We moved it around a bit, played our game. Our forwards got dominance at scrum time, the lineout was good too.”
Young halfback Cameron Davies covered the first half, before Wanganui brought the veteran Lindsay Horrocks on for the second stanza, and he introduced some more urgency.
Hooker Joe Edwards and lock Josh Lane, who had been working through a sore ankle during the week, were the standout forwards, while Caskey praised Bogileka for a very good match with a lot of workrate – shifting to cover the wing after Vereniki Tikoisolomone came off sore from a knee to the back.
While Tikoisolomone should recover fine, prop Wiremu Cottrell suffered a corked thigh and may be doubtful for the next game with King Country.
Captain Campbell Hart agreed the team had put training into practice after their loss to Hawke’s Bay Saracens by not doing such easy-to-read carries, even if the backs had to work for longer with less cover on the bench.
“We didn’t want to go into our shell, we want to play our game and move the ball.
“We just take the ball a bit wider.
“It was basically hands let us down in the first half.
“Second half, we got into our rhythm, we didn’t really let them get the ball.”
The win with a bonus point sets up a decisive match with cup-holders Wairarapa Bush at Cooks Gardens on October 17, but next up is King Country in Taumarunui, as Wanganui defends the Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy.
Wanganui 36 (C Clare 2, D Whale, J Bogileka, T Seruwalu tries; Clare pen, 4 con) bt Horowhenua-Kapiti 7. HT: 10-0.
First Class games – October 10: King Country, Taumarunui (Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy); October 17: Wairarapa Bush, Whanganui (Bruce Steel Memorial Cup round-robin); October 24: Poverty Bay, Napier (Curtain-raiser to Hawke’s Bay vs Manawatu).