Crikey ... lucky this is only pre-season stuff for Hawke's Bay Magpies training squad members.
Should the Magpies play like the Saracens XV (Magpies training squad members) did in this 33-29 loss to the Bay of Plenty Wasps at Napier's McLean Park yesterday come ITM Cup time their quest to secure promotion back to the Premiership will be as shaky as the lower North Island has been in the wake of recent earthquakes.
While there were some entertaining patches of enterprising rugby with clever unloads, there were far too many missed tackles, soft turnovers and soft penalties conceded. However after trailing 28-14 at halftime the hosts improved in the second half to outscore the Wasps 15-5 with the visitors' only second half try coming in the 75th minute when second five-eighth Nick Evemy grabbed his second.
"Two or three key individuals missed a few tackles and they know who they are. But generally our defensive systems were good," Magpies head coach Craig Philpott said afterwards.
"There were times when we panicked on attack and isolated ourselves from support. We need to be calmer in those situations," Philpott explained.
He agreed the Wasps were a big step up from the Manawatu Evergreens outfit his troops thrashed 46-14 in Palmerston North last week.
"They were a much better team ... better organised and more urgent."
The Saracens XV conceded seven unanswered penalties in the first half. They had no lineout throws and only two scrum put-ins. With more ball and eight penalties, five more than the Wasps in the second half they were able to create more attacking opportunities.
From one of the Saracens' three set piece plays in the first half, winger Mikey Vuicakau scored scored off a clever short pass from first five-eighth Ihaia West. Earlier in the half busy prop Jody Allen scored his third try for the side in two games after some superb dominant play from the Saracens.
West sparked the Saracens' second half comeback with a solo try in the 45th minute and when centre Bronson Neera scored an intercept try with 16 minutes remaining the hosts trailed 28-26.
Starting locks Michael Allardice and Mark Abbott can be proud of their work rates. Blindside flanker Trent Boswell-Wakefield and No.8 Mark Atkins were always dangerous on the charge.
Come ITM Cup time when Philpott can call on either of two Super players in the No7 jersey, Karl Lowe from the Hurricanes and Brendon O'Connor from the Blues and the likes of Andrew Horrell and Richard Buckman in the midfield there shouldn't be the defensive lapses the 1100 Magpies fans had to witness yesterday.
Evemy and centre Kendrick Lynn operated well in the Wasps midfield while dangerous winger Kimami Sitauti was thirsty for work and deserved his two tries.
Former Magpie Tino Nemani started at fullback for the visitors.
Bay of Plenty Wasps 33 (Kimami Sitauti 2, Nick Evemy 2, Junior Tofa Va'a tries; Willie Ripia 4 cons), Hawke's Bay Saracens XV 29 (Jody Allen, Mikey Vuicakau, Ihaia West, Bronson Neera tries; Ihaia West 2, Regis Lespinas cons; Lespinas pen). HT: 28-14.
Lindisfarne College openside flanker Hugh Renton produced a player-of-the-match performance as the Hurricanes U18s walloped their Chiefs counterparts 46-10 in Taupo yesterday. Renton's schoolmate, winger Mason Emerson and Napier Boys' High School No 8 Vinny Guildford, were among the Canes tryscorers.
This trio and fellow Bay players NBHS fullback Sam McNicol and NBHS midfield back Shae Tucker were all impressive starters for the Canes. Their 2011 Hawke's Bay U16 captain and hooker Travis Taylor provided quality impact off the bench.