Lochore Cup final preview

Gettty Images

Thursday, October 25, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Gettty Images

Lochore Cup final
Horowhenua Kapiti v Wairarapa-Bush
Sunday October 28, 2.35pm at Levin Domain, Levin

Referee: Richard Kelly (Taranaki)
Played: 55 (1971-2018)
Wins: Wairarapa-Bush 34, Horowhenua Kapiti 19, Drawn 2
Last match: Horowhenua Kapiti 37 Wairarapa-Bush 21 (September 22, 2018)

There are certain similarities between Horowhenua Kapiti and Wairarapa-Bush as they head for a Sunday showdown in Levin.

They are both led by admirable locks, in Ryan Shelford and James Goodger. They have both leaned on Wellington loan players in recent times. They have both been affiliated to New Zealand Rugby since 1893, when they were just known as Horowhenua and Wairarapa. They have both won one NPC division three title, Horowhenua in 1993 and Wairarapa-Bush in 2005. They both went 4-4 in the 2018 regular season, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, on the log. Both showed resilience to win their semifinals last weekend.

Wairarapa-Bush, after being blanked by the North Otago Old Golds a week beforehand, turned the tables with a creditable 30-21 victory in Masterton, highlighted by a fine double to second five Michael Lealava’a and some telling impact off the bench.

Horowhenua Kapiti worked hard for its 34-24 win over Mid Canterbury, captain Shelford scoring the winning try on the goalposts padding. The best try was to wing Kalim Kelemete off a slashing break by James So’oialo, younger brother of Rodney So’oialo.

So the home side has the distinction of hosting its second straight Heartland final. Last year Levin Domain was the venue for the Meads Cup decider, won by visitor Wanganui. The 125th jubilee cake is set and ready to eat. It just needs icing. Chris Wilton’s charges will be desperate to oblige.

Notables in the squad are tighthead prop Scott Cameron, the 2017 Heartland player of the year, and opensider Aaron Lahmert, both of whom were named midweek in the New Zealand Heartland XV. Player of origin, loosehead prop Robin Praat, has represented New Zealand Universities. No 10 So’oialo, loaned from Wellington via the Tawa club, has played Test rugby for Manu Samoa and is a key cog in this team, not just for his accurate boot. Wing Willie Paia’aua is back from a hand injury.
Last month Horowhenua Kapiti got the better of its neighbours to the tune of 37-21, but a similar defensive effort as shown in the semifinal will again be called for.

Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood played 61 games for the union, which included the 2006 Meads Cup triumph and 2010 Lochore Cup win. His assistant coach Piri Weepu played 71 Test for the All Blacks, so both know what is required under the pressure of finals footy.

Their squad is not hugely experienced, other than the likes of fullback Inia Katia and Goodger, but there is plenty of form in there and No 8 Kirk Tufuga has played for New Zealand Universities. Goodger is the sole Wairarapa-Bush player named in the Heartland XV.

What the visitors would give to have Sir Brian Lochore, a great man of the union, present them with the trophy after fulltime on Sunday.

Horowhenua Kapiti:
Himiona Henare, Kalim Kelemete, Timoci Serewalu, Leon Ellison, Willie Paia’aua, James So’oialo, Tainui Brown, Tyson Maki, Aaron Lahmert, Joel Winterburn, Tainui Woodmass, Ryan Shelford (c), Scott Cameron, Dean Ropata, Robin Praat
Reserves: David McErlean, Tiwana Paringatai, Tom Zimmerman, Anthony Fox, Kane Tamou, Stewart MacGregor, Ethan Reti

Wairarapa-Bush: Inia Katia, Finn Yeats, Robbie Anderson, Michael Lealava’a, Soli Malatai, Tipene Haira, Daryl Pickering, Kirk Tufuga, Ryan Knell, Tavita Isaac, Andrew Smith, James Goodger (c), Max Tufuga, Elijah-James Pakoti, Sam Gammie
Reserves: Nicholas Hohepa, Jeremiah Mapusua, Lachlan McFadzean, Sam Shaw, Tim Priest, Cameron Hayton, Tristan Flutey