Wanganui players kept their end of the bargain as the New Zealand Heartland Touring rugby side went agonisingly close to toppling Samoan NPC champions Apia on a rainy, muggy Tuesday in Samoa.
The Kiwis were just two points adrift losing to Apia 23-21 at Apia Park.
Heartland team manager Chris Back, who also managed Steelform Wanganui this season, said it was a tough encounter played in high heat and rain.
"The three Samoan tries came from two intercepts and a knock-on and our guys just weren't used to the heat. It was raining as well so the ball was very slippery. It was a very physical encounter as you can imagine. We know that from the Samoans playing in New Zealand, but it's a bit different when you are up against 15 of them," Back said yesterday.
The score was 11-6 to Apia at the halftime whistle, but mistakes by the Heartland team allowed the Samoans to edge out to 23-9 with just 10 minutes to go. But spectacular late tries to Heartland wingers Cameron Hayton (Wairarapa Bush) and Lemisio Masoe (North Otago) gave the New Zealanders a whiff of an improbable comeback victory.
"Mark Davis came off the bench after 27 minutes and helped steady the ship, while his Wanganui teammates Peter Rowe [captain], Shaun McDonough and Fraser Hammond had solid games as usual. Nick Cranston also came on after 15 minutes when one of our locks suffered heat exhaustion and he too played very well. Davis kicked three penalties and a conversion," Back said.
The match was a learning curve for the Heartland team going into Saturday's battle with Samoa A.
"Both the players and management team have learned a lot. We now know we don't need our normal 40-minute warm-up and we are in no doubt about the style of play from the Samoans. We have taken a break today but we'll be back training tomorrow and Friday in preparation for Saturday," Back said.