Steelform Wanganui put on a coach-pleasing performance at Cooks Gardens last night in a mud wrestle with Manawatu B.
The weather-hampered match ended in a 7-all draw but coach Jason Caskey was happy with how the side looked heading into its Heartland Championship opener against South Canterbury in Timaru next weekend.
Wanganui needed to give their backline a run and the pre-season nature of the game allowed them to throw traditional wet-weather tactics out the window.
Kicking for territory and taking penalty goals on offer was traded for ball-in-hand attack.
Wanganui broke the visitor’s defence on several occasions in the first spell with forays into Manawatu territory. Offered three shots at goal throughout the match, the home side turned them down in search of five-pointers.
Manawatu, however, were happy to use the boot and, despite a series of Wanganui attacks, it was the visitors who scored first from a pinpoint cross-field kick.
Wanganui struck back just before halftime with a try to Taihape’s Tremaine Gilbert. The conversion to Josh Hamilton levelled the game at 7-all heading into the break.
The rain set in in the second half and as players struggled for structure in the mud bath with ball handling becoming more of a problem.
Caskey was pleased with the over-all performance, the first half in particular.
“I’m really happy with what we fronted up with,” he said. “We probably had 70 per cent of the possession and we had more chances than they did.”
The final pre-season match was also a chance to check out former Horowhenua-Kapiti rep Josh Hamilton at first five-eighth.
Caskey said Hamilton, who was the top points scorer in Taranaki club rugby this year, controlled the game well in the first half before being switched to fullback. Hamilton would be a starter against South Canterbury, he said. Wanganui will also be pleased to come through the match without further injuries.
After scraping past King Country 35-34 in Turangi on Saturday, Caskey was happy with the pre-season form and, with a few midfield reinforcements, he said the backline should have some punch this season.
By Zaryd Wilson- WANGANUI CHRONICLE