North Otago’s opening Heartland clash ended in a 20-18 defeat to Wairarapa Bush on Saturday at the Whitestone Contracting Stadium.
After a tightly contested opening 30 minutes Chris Talanoa touched down in the corner for the home side, Ed Keohane could not capitalise from the boot.
The visitors were quick to reply through prop Finnbarr Kerr-Newell three minutes later followed by a neatly taken conversion from Glen Walters.
The Old Golds continued to look menacing heading into the break and the consistent pressure paid off as Bush were penalised for Keohane to hand his side a 8-7 lead into half time.
Both teams matched each other in the opening 15 minutes of the second period until Wairarapa punished North Otago on the counter attack through winger Nathan Hunt.
Glen Walters radar was frustratingly accurate, hitting a drop goal to extend the lead to 17-8 as the green and reds began to gain momentum.
Keohane hit back for North Otago from the boot before Toetuu Hausia crossed the line to make it a nail biting final 10 minutes.
Coach Mike Mullins was pleased his players came away unscathed and now will prepare for Saturday’s tie with South Canterbury.
“We probably turn the ball over at crucial times during the game which relieved pressure off Wairarapa,” he said.
“Our lineout attack and defence went well.
“Just a few areas around the contact areas to work on. At this stage there’s no injury concerns.”
Wairarapa Bush coach Mark Rutene said his players did not perform in the first half and will have things to work on before their next tie with West Coast.
“We struggled for continuity in the first half,” he said.
“We couldn’t get passed two or three phases and our line out wasn’t great, we’ll need to work on that.
“It could have gone either way, they’re a good team but I think we came out better in the second half and someone had to lose.”
By James Ford