RUGBY - POVERTY BAY coach Grainger Heikell was left scratching his head after his side’s 48-21 loss to Wairarapa Bush in their Heartland Championship rugby match at Rugby Park on Saturday.
“I don’t know what to say, except, it’s not acceptable,” Heikell said.
“It’s particularly disappointing after we trained so well, but it was poor execution, poor skills and a lack of discipline . . . 10 penalties in the first 40 minutes.
“Credit to Wairarapa Bush; they took everything on offer, but we handed it to them on a plate.
“There were patches — when we did look after the pill — where we created chances and scored tries. But we need to take a good look at ourselves before fronting up against Wanganui next week.”
Wanganui are the Meads Cup champions and have been the Bay’s bogey team in recent years. Another performance like this could end in a humiliating loss and put a severe dent in the Bay’s hopes of making the Meads Cup (top-six) section.
Bay lock Murray Hewson was playing his 50th game for the home side and produced another typical 80-minute non-stop effort. Sadly, the same could not be said of his teammates, with dropped passes, poor distribution, ineffectual tackling and bad option-taking coming into play at crucial stages of the game.
Wairarapa Bush, chasing their second win in a row, opened the scoring after nine minutes with a penalty to first five-eighth Glen Walters. He converted all six of his side’s tries and finished with 18 points.
During the next 11 minutes there was little to suggest this would end up being a walkover for the visitors. The Bay scrum and lineout were up to the task at set-pieces.
The difference came in broken play, with Wairarapa scoring three of their six tries from turnover ball and a fourth from an intercept when the Bay tried to run the ball out from inside their 22.
Bush’s lively halfback, Inia Katia, was the first benefactor of the Bay’s sloppy handling when he pounced on a spilled ball in the 20th minute to score.
Four minutes later, Bay second five Moss Doran finished off a superb break by centre Paul Tikomainaivalu to score close to the posts. Skipper and first five Scott Leighton added the two points.
But from the restart the Bay paid dearly when Leighton’s pass was intercepted by Bush right-winger Cameron Hayton, who dotted down under the bar.
Another Walters penalty stretched the gap to 13 points, six minutes before halftime.
With the break only a minute away, Bay prop Jone Lesi looked to have saved a certain try when he stopped Bush hooker Jamie Hunt close to the line.
The Bush forwards arrived in numbers and when the ball was recycled to Katia he jinked his way across the line. Walters’ conversion gave Bush a handy 27-7 lead as the teams headed to the changing rooms.
A halftime rev-up from Heikell seemed to have the desired effect as his side dominated possession and territory for the opening 20 minutes in the second spell and came close to scoring, with fullback Kelvin Smith and Tikomainaivalu the most dangerous attackers.
Namibian international David Philander, playing on the left wing, showed glimpses of his class but did not get enough ball.
Three penalties were turned down as the Bay went for the touchline in search of tries, which never came as the ball-handling and passing woes of the first 40 minutes returned.
With the Bay on attack another dropped pass opened the door for a 70-metre runaway try to Bush fullback Nick Olson in the 60th minute.
Three minutes later it was Bush centre Jesse Gilvary’s turn to capitalise on a turnover and score a try.
And still the Bush had not finished. Openside flanker Johan Van Viliet sauntered in for try No.6, and the conversion made it 48-7 with 20 minutes remaining.
To their credit, the Bay refused to hang their heads and were rewarded when Philander scored his first try for the Bay. Leighton converted magnificently from the sideline.
With six minutes remaining, Bay replacement lock Jason Tuapawa crossed the try-line and again Leighton did the honours. But it was too little, too late.
POVERTY BAY 21 (Moss Doran, David Philander, Jason Tuapawa tries; Scott Leighton 3 cons).
WAIRARAPA BUSH 48 (Inia Katia 2, Cameron Hayton, Nick Olson, Jesse Gilvray, Johan Van Viliet tries; Glen Walters 6 cons, 2 pens).
HT: 27-7 (Wairarapa Bush).