After his team conceded 121 points in two games, you might have thought Ngati Porou East Coast co-coach Wayne Ensor would be happy with a 26-5 loss to Wairarapa Bush at Ruatoria on Saturday.
“Not really . . . a loss is still a loss and we were keen to win this game,” Ensor said.
The Coast’s chances of winning this Heartland Championship rugby match at Whakarua Park were dealt cruel early blows.
Skipper Hone Haerewa had to withdraw overnight and key players loosehead prop Hakarangi Tichborne and blindside flanker Rikki Kernohan were injured early.
“We had an awesome build-up to the game and were confident, but losing these three and then Tanetoa (Parata, who came off the bench for his first Heartland game of the season) didn’t help.
“Tane played well and should be OK, but we might not have Rikki and Hakarangi for the trip to Timaru to play South Canterbury on Saturday.
“Playing them was always going to be hard enough with a full-strength team. Now, possibly without Rikki and Hakarangi and with South Canterbury having put 50 points on Horowhenua in Wellington, it will be even more difficult.”
On a muddy pitch, with halfback Sam Parkes and winger Taina Potae outstanding on defence, the Coast held Wairarapa to 14-0 at halftime.
“Ten minutes into the second half we felt we should have been awarded a penalty try,” Ensor said.
“Jayden Milner (winger) was taken out with a high shot in the act of scoring a try which should have been a penalty try (automatic conversion) . . . we didn’t even get a penalty, which could have resulted in a different game.”
Milner eventually scored, after a strong break from fullback Morrison Siliko.
As for a player of the day, Ensor said, “We (he and co-coach Troy Para) were happy with the effort of all the players, considering the disruptions, with Hone being unavailable and then the injuries.
“We had a couple of unlucky calls, which was frustrating. It’s hard to take when you see the boys putting in so much effort each week without the rewards.”
Wanganui joined King Country at the top of the table after three games. Both are on 14 points but Wanganui top the table by virtue of a better points difference.
Mid Canterbury are third on 12, followed by King Country (11), North Otago and South Canterbury (both on 10), Wairarapa Bush, Horowhenua Kapiti and West Coast (all on 7), Poverty Bay (5) Buller (3) and NPEC (0).
NGATI POROU EAST COAST 5 (Jayden Milner try) Wairarapa Bush 26 (Sam Gammie 2, Matt Henderson, Mike Lealeav’a tries; Glen Walters 3 con).
RUGBY by John Hill
Published: September 10, 2018 4:08PM