Waikato is up against it as another difficult ITM Cup matchup against Canterbury awaits in Christchurch this evening.
Credit: Planet Rugby
Tough times are at hand for Waikato, both for the side itself and its fans, what happened down in New Plymouth last Friday night was exactly what the headlines read; the worst loss in thirty years.
Thirty years is a long time, most of the players in the squad weren’t even born the last time Waikato were held scoreless in a provincial match.
Stephen Donald failed to have an impact off the bench; but the game was far gone by that stage. Donald will not be available tonight as his hamstring injury continues to trouble; no one really knows what the prognosis is it seems.
Damian McKenzie didn’t have an impact playing at fullback, failing to kick a single goal, and the youngster didn’t seem to have the same threat with running ball, and that came as a big surprise.
The only gripe Waikato can have from the night was when Regan Ware’s try was disallowed.
Down towards the lower end on the Premiership points table; the Mooloos now require wins from their last three games of the season in order to make the finals in October, and two of those need to be bonus point wins.
Depending on what the likes of Taranaki can do for the remainder of the season, Waikato could miss the finals based on points also.
The season thus far has been a story of missed opportunity; this young Waikato side has all the ingredients and should be higher up in the Premiership table.
The loss to Auckland was a blunder, failing to capture a bonus point against Southland left a lot of pressure for the three games in ten days round trip against Taranaki, Canterbury, and then Wellington.
Some of the changes to positions that Sean Botherway made for the Taranaki match must be questioned, and his selections for this week prove it because the first year coach has basically reverted to the old formula of starting Damian McKenzie at first five, bringing Dylan Collier the wing, and moving the exciting Shaun Stevenson back to fullback.
You’d have to think it was something of an experiment; and it didn’t work. McKenzie in particular has proven form at fullback, Botherway can’t be blamed for that change in particular, but the rest were questionable.
Wharenui Hawera clearly wasn’t the option at first five in the loss to Taranaki, he has far more experience at ITM Cup level playing at fullback and he must slot into this position coming off the bench against Canterbury.
Waikato must win this evening to keep a slight hope of making the ITM Cup finals alive, nothing more than a win can help this young side from here.