The curtain was raised on the Heartland Championships at the weekend as Horowhenua-Kapiti (HK) smashed Wairarapa Bush 32-6 at Westpac Stadium.

It was the first pre-season fixture with HK holding onto the PGG Wrightson Cup, which the team attained for the first time in history, last year.

HK coach Chris Wilton said to beat another heartland team by 32-6 would be bound to make the team pretty happy.

He said the team was prepared and had worked hard in preparation for the match.

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Kane Tamou has the ball in the Heartland Championship curtain raiser /Photo Darryl Butler
Kane Tamou has the ball in the Heartland Championship curtain raiser /Photo Darryl Butler

"They were excited about the opportunity to play at the Cake Tin, to go into the changing rooms, soak it all in and do the haka," he said.

"It was the first time we were together for the year, we had the bones of a game plan, and I think they executed that well."

He said that for the guys who were playing heartland rugby for the first time, they found it more physical and a good challenge and one they responded well to.

Horowhenua Kapiti captain Ryan Shelford stretches to put the ball over the chalk against Wairarapa Bush at Westpac Stadium on Saturday. Photo / Darryl Butler
Horowhenua Kapiti captain Ryan Shelford stretches to put the ball over the chalk against Wairarapa Bush at Westpac Stadium on Saturday. Photo / Darryl Butler

With HK celebrating 125 years this year, there is a sense of anticipation for the season ahead.

"Management and senior leadership want to build, and no matter what we do, we always want to be better. 2018 is about all of us being better as individuals and as a team," Wilton said.

Last year, the community rallied behind the team and supported them as they made it to the Meads Cup finals.

Wilton said that this year, there is a belief that the team can achieve great things, but he asked the community to share the journey.

"We are all locals, and we take pride in that, we feel privileged to represent the community on the rugby field."

Last year HK won the PGG Wrightson Cup for the first time since it was played for in 2012 and won it again at the weekend. It was nice to take the Cup back home with them once again.

Wairarapa Bush coach Joe Harwood said that the game was an opportunity for both sides to look at an extended squad, and give the young guys an opportunity to see how they go at the next level.
"A couple of new guys stood up, and a couple were caught out of their depth, and that's the whole purpose of playing these games, to have a look at them now before the competition starts," he said.

"Examples were the amount of turn over ball concerning loose carries and contact; there's plenty of work to be done that's for sure.

"Last year HK had a tremendous season making the final, and it looks like they are building strongly for this year."

The next pre-season fixture will be played against Wellington Lions on Monday 4 June at the Levin Domain.