North Otago’s quest to secure a third Meads Cup ended in disappointment following a 26-20 loss to Mid Canterbury in Ashburton on Saturday.
The host’s season had been one of consistency, their only defeat coming in a frustrating 19-18 loss to North Otago in round four.
The Old Golds drew first blood inside ten minutes through J’ndre Leibenberg, the second five-eighth produced an explosive run for the try following a superb off load from Lemi Masoe.
The home side began to gain momentum with sustained pressure paying off with a try from Dwayne Burrows, converted by Murray Williams. The first five-eighth was exceptional from the boot throughout but the 62 metre penalty in the first half was certainly the highlight. The sea of green and yellow supporters steadily got behind Mid Canterbuy, who responded with another try at the half hour mark from skipper Jon Dampney, which Williams easily converted followed by a successful penalty to give his side a 23-7 advantage at the break.
North Otago returned for the second period with the wind behind them as the home supporters anxiously wondered whether a 16 point lead would be enough to capture the union’s first Meads Cup.
The nerves were frayed even more when Keohane slotted two penalties in quick succession to reduce the gap to ten points with 23 minutes to play. Williams was again on cue to notch his fourth penalty of the afternoon but the visitors weren’t about to let Mid Canterbury rest easy until the final whistle.
Alex Brown touched down in the corner for his side’s second try of the afternoon which Keohane converted, but it proved too little too late as Mid Canterbury ended the hurt of two final losses in 2008 and 2009 to be crowned Meads Cup winners.
North Otago coach Mike Mullins praised his players’ efforts following the tightly contested encounter.
“Mid Canterbury made less mistakes than us which was the difference in the end,” he said.
“We still had a chance right to the end.
“(It was) good to make the final, lots of players got a taste of Heartland rugby.”
Mid Canterbury 26 (Dwayne Burrows, Jon Dampney tries; Murray Williams 2 con, 4 pen) North Otago 20 (J’ndre Liebenberg, Alex Brown tries; Ed Keohane 2 con, 2 pen)
By James Ford