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Men in gold . . . The North Otago hockey team that placed fourth at the Ian Smith Trophy tournament in Timaru at the weekend: Front, from left, Jim Keown, Fraser Hollamby, Thomas Wouters, Jonty Naylor, Sam Brocas, Josh Dalziel, Ryan Stringer, Nick MacDonald; back, George Smith, Greg Webster, Nick Dalziel, Richard Knight (captain), Jared Ovens, Paul Alden, James Ferris, Brent Martyn. PHOTO: JESSIE KNIGHT

First is a whole lot better than fourth, but North Otago player-coach Jared Ovens does not believe there was a lot between the two places at the Ian Smith Trophy hockey tournament at the weekend.

North Otago won two of its five games to finish fourth at the annual tournament in Timaru.

One of its losses was by a single goal and the others were by two goals, and North Otago was still in the title race heading into the final round.

Ovens was confident after the first day, when a 3-2 win over Mid Canterbury was followed by a good performance in a 3-1 loss to pre-tournament favourite South Canterbury, but was disappointed to be beaten 2-1 by Invercargill on Saturday.

“I was really happy after that first day. We’d played what I thought would be the two toughest teams, played well, and won a game.

“What really cost us was the game against Invercargill. We just didn’t play very well at all.”

James Ferris, originally of Oamaru and now living in Christchurch, scored a first-half double against Mid Canterbury, and Jonty Naylor scored the crucial third goal.

Ferris also scored North Otago’s only goal in the loss to South Canterbury, and cracked in a hat trick in a 6-2 win over Central Otago on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, four teams were still in with a chance of winning the tournament, but North Otago let that chance slip with a 5-3 loss to Eastern Southland.

South Canterbury was seconds away from defending its title when Mid Canterbury scored to seal a 3-3 draw.

That left Eastern Southland as champion, Invercargill second and South Canterbury third.

North Otago brothers Josh and Nick Dalziel were named in the tournament team, and will get a chance to play Otago later this year.