OLD GOLDS WRAP
Let’s do that old game where we look at a glass and try to work out whether it is half full or half empty.
Half full: North Otago beat King Country 28-26, and has moved from sixth to fifth in the Heartland Championship. The Old Golds scored three cracking tries – two to rangy lock Don Lolo. They looked great for much of the first 15 minutes, and showed some steel to regain the lead going into the last 15 minutes and hold on for a vital win. The scrum was brutally dominant.
Half empty: What the heck happened after that first quarter? North Otago fell off the pace terribly, and could be considered lucky to escape with four points. The backline generally misfired. Discipline was an issue, and there were way too many turnovers and missed tackles.
It would be cruel to focus solely on the negative – this was a win, after all – but it seems clear North Otago will have to significantly lift its game if it is to even reach the Meads Cup, let alone win it.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
A very easy decision this week.
North Otago has had some excellent loose forwards in recent years but perhaps none of the sheer class and bruising physicality of Mika Mafi.
The former Otago and Southland No8 was the best player on the park, a barnstorming bundle of energy who always broke the line – generally taking two defenders with him – and never shirked his duties.
Prop Meli Kolinisau continued his good form and Josh Clark was prominent in the first half, while Lemi Masoe and Josh Buchan showed some nice touches in the backline.
OTHER HEARTLAND GAMES
An intriguing round with a couple of tasty results.
South Canterbury made a big statement with a 21-17 win over defending champion Wanganui in Timaru. The green and blacks scored two tries in the final 10 minutes to hand Wanganui its first loss in two years, and now have a two-point lead at the top of the table.
There were two other upsets, and both involved coast teams. West Coast beat previously unbeaten Horowhenua-Kapiti 24-18 in Greymouth, and Thames Valley shocked previously unbeaten Buller 26-7 in Paeroa.
Former All Black midfielder Regan King scored two tries for Mid Canterbury in its 60-24 shellacking of Wairarapa-Bush in Masterton, and Poverty Bay beat East Coast 35-15 in the wooden spoon battle in Gisborne.
OTHER REP GAMES
Under-18: Lost to Otago Country 31-10 in Ranfurly. Lock Eli Winders, flanker Lochie Templeton and second five Ala Kaufana had big games.
Under-16: Beat Otago Country 57-12 in Ranfurly. North Otago started poorly and was held to 7-7 at halftime, but unleashed hell in the second half. Scored some outstanding tries. Prop Tupou Fifita, lock Oli Kinzett and No 8 Paea Fifita stood out in the pack, and Bryden Skinner continued his marvellous form in the backs.
Under-14: Beat Otago Country 47-29 in Ranfurly. Forwards stepped up and gave the backs some good attacking ball. Peleki Tangifolau, Isaac Eathorne and Issac Clunie shone on attack.
Under-13: Lost to Otago Metro 61-12. Trailed 51-0 at halftime but played extremely well in the second half. Ben Kay scored a superb solo try.
Under-12: Lost to Ellesmere 41-0 in Oamaru. Elisae Earnest and Jakob Cunningham were dangerous with ball in hand, Alex Wilson delivered good ball from halfback, and Campbell Fowler and Zicayde Sage made some strong tackles.
So we meet again.
It’s the biggest game in the rugby calendar – North Otago v South Canterbury, and with the Hanan Shield at stake.
The home side starts as a comfortable favourite in Timaru, but now is the time for the Old Golds to really let rip and produce something special.
That shield needs to come home.