The North Otago Development team were unable to defeat neighbours South Canterbury in their Hanan Shield fixture at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.
The young North Otago side, which featured eight players still at school, fought gallantly but came up short with a 26-20 loss.
The game was a very physical encounter, with both sides looking to play attacking rugby.
Both teams traded penalties early on, before South Canterbury opened the scoring. They kicked another penalty just before half-time to lead 13-3 at the break.
North Otago came out stronger in the second half and responded with a try to winger Siua Ngalo after it was created by a fantastic long ball from Brodie Flannery.
South Canterbury scored again and the North Otago replied through a damaging effort from prop Sana Nahuto.
South Canterbury scored another try and a penalty but North Otago had the final say, with standout centre Diego Biro scoring a try following good lead-up play from Callum Lines.
North Otago Development manager Graham Pitches said it was a bit of inexperience which cost the side.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the last five minutes when we were pressing hard for the win and the lack of experience probably cost us.”
Pitches was really pleased with the effort of the team throughout the season.
“Everybody has been playing really well and it’s fantastic to see because plenty of the players have been performing well, which is putting pressure on the Heartland players.”
The side were incredibly disappointed to lose on Saturday but still rate the season as a pass.
“We had some players show they deserve a go at that next level and by next year there will be more.”
Standouts for the team have been Matthew Vocea, Wade Hodgen, Sana Nahuto, Diego Biro and Kayne Middleton.
Pitches said the coaches had done a great job.
“Kilifi and Tai have been really good. They’ve worked together well and the players have enjoyed playing under them. It’s pleasing to see.”
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY
PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY
STANDOUT: Diego Biro has been one of the development team’s best players.