Unheralded Wairarapa-Bush provided one of the main talking points at the Hurricanes regional sevens rugby tournament played in Palmerston North over the weekend.
Not only did their fourth placing qualify Wairarapa-Bush to contest the national sevens championships in Queenstown in January but on the way to achieving that objective they provided the individual highlight of the event, a 26-17 defeat of one of the "big guns", Wellington.
That win followed a 17-12 victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti and a 43-7 loss to the powerful Taranaki combination and the manner of it spoke volumes for the character and resolve in the Wairarapa-Bush squad which had to come from behind after conceding a couple of early tries.
And it also came mighty close to earning them a place in the final, a countback on points differential relegating them to the playoff for third and fourth instead. And there they met Taranaki again, this time losing 29-0.
Expertly coached by New Zealand sevens star Lote Raikabula assisted by James Anderson, the tournament marked Wairarapa-Bush's return to the provincial sevens after an absence of some years and they made a huge impression with their energetic style of play.
In fact, it was probably the edge they had in fitness which was a deciding factor in the win over Wellington.
Individually the standout for Wairarapa-Bush was Inia Katia, who was a constant threat to opposition defences with his elusive running and clever playmaking skills. Little wonder at least one of the bigger provinces were rumoured to be chasing his services in the lead- up to this tourney.
Another to shine for Wairarapa-Bush was the hard-working Johan Van Vliet who covered huge territory on attack and defence and while little was seen of New Zealand Heartland rep Cameron Hayton because of an injury suffered in the first match, he did enough to suggest he has a big future in this form of the game.
Making Wairarapa-Bush even more noteworthy is that their side included three schoolboys from Wairarapa College, Daniel Nicho, Carlos Rimene and Daryl Pickering, who all showed huge potential.
Raikabula, who made a few appearances for Carterton in the 15-a-side game last season, was confined to a coaching role but hopes are he will be able to be part of the action in Queenstown.