New Zealand’s Heartland XV opened their three-game programme with a 47-42 win over New Zealand Marist in Masterton on Saturday evening.
Up 31-14 at half-time, the Heartland side had to withstand a Marist team who threw caution to the wind in a bid to get back into the game.
However, coach Grant Keenan was pleased with the way the Heartland side held its structure. They had created four good tries in the first half, and while they didn’t take some of the chances they developed in the second half there was plenty to be pleased with in the performance.
Substitutions in the second half upset some of the flow, but Keenan said he was pleased with the approach that the Marist side took because he expects it will be the sort of play seen from the Australian Barbarians who play the next two games against the Heartland side in Levin on Tuesday and in Wanganui next Saturday.
Much attention in the game was focused on the 18-year-old Wanganui Collegiate first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta and he hadn’t disappointed showing some superb control during the game and Keenan predicted he would have ‘a huge future’.
As it is he made an impressive start by managing the rare feat of scoring all four ways in the game with a try, six conversions, three penalty goals and a dropped goal for a personal haul of 29 points.
Keenan said he and assistant coach Mutu Ngarimu were pleased with the way the side had come together in the days preceding the game and there had been great excitement in the squad ahead of the Marist encounter. Others to show out had been halfback Lindsay Horrocks, who proved a brave defender, lock Adam Ross who was strong with the ball in hand in the first 50 minute and captain and lock Eric Duff had proved very stable.
The side will travel to Palmerston North to be based at the Rugby Institute there for the rest of the week and traveling to the matches on the day.
While not a lot was known of their Australian opposition, they knew their average age was about 23 and they have a solid group of Australia Under-20 players, three who have played Sevens for Australia and two or three Super Rugby players.
“There is real excitement in the side and for many of these players it is the highest level most of them will have the opportunity to play,” Keenan said.
“We want to play some real Heartland rugby with elbows and knees going and to play the full 80 minutes like we played the first 40 tonight,” he said.
NZ Heartland XV 47 (Lemi Masoe 2, James Hemara, Cole Baldwin, Stephen Perofeta tries; Perofeta 5 con, 3 pen, dropped goal)
New Zealand Marist 42 (Penalty try, Sean Begg, Chris Crichton, Nick Strachan, Nemani Waka, Mike Buckley tries; James Hawkey 6 con.