North Otago has lost its second Heartland Championship tie in as many weeks, falling 21-15 to South Canterbury at the Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru on Saturday.
South Canterbury opened the scoring from the formidable boot of Liam Edwards just beyond halfway. The fullback punished the visitors again moments later to give his side a 6-0 advantage.
North Otago was quick to respond through TJ Harris, the hooker touching down in the corner from an explosive burst.
Loan first five-eighth Ben Patston was unable to convert his effort.
Edwards threatened again with a darting run but for the robust defensive work of North Otago’s Simeli Koniferedi.
The green and blacks took to a 9-5 lead into the break, but Patston was quick to return fire in the opening moments of the second period to reduce the deficit to a point, albeit short-lived.
The Old Gold’s rhythm was again disrupted as South Canterbury lock Luke Brice took advantage of Joeli Kotobolavu’s hard work and exquisite off-load to notch his side’s first try of the day, which was duly converted by the radar-boot of Edwards.
The home side crossed the line again 10 minutes from time through openside flanker Nick Strachan.
North Otago hit back once more but it proved too little too late.
To add to coach Mike Mullin’s concerns, Kilioni Taufa picked up a concussion from a high tackle and will be unavailable for three weeks, along with flanker Matt Duff and lock Dylan Winter, who both suffered knee injuries.
Mullins said his players would now look ahead to next weekend’s clash with East Coast and assess whether reinforcements would be needed later in the week.
“We need to follow our game plan for each opposition team, as this can be slightly different each week,” he said.
“At this stage, it was a one-off (the loan of Ben Patston), but (we) will reassess during the week what make up we want from our loan players.
“Every game is a must-win if you want to give yourself a chance to make the Meads Cup play-offs.”
By James Ford