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Back off . . . North Otago flanker Morgan Henderson challenges Pirates defender Morgan Walker, a former North Otago player, during the game at Hancock Park in Dunedin on Saturday. PHOTO: CASWELL IMAGES

North Otago put up a heck of a showing in its latest game in the Dunedin premier women’s rugby competition.

A 20-17 loss to defending champions Pirates was a wonderful effort considering North Otago took just 16 players – most of the schoolgirls in the squad stayed behind to get ready for the Waitaki schools formal – to Dunedin.

Pirates, loaded with talent and experience, led 13-5 at halftime.

North Otago showed great courage and enterprise to dominate the second half, and was left wondering what might have been.

Cheyenne Cunningham, playing at centre rather than her normal fullback position, and inexperienced wingers Haruko Tomita and Christina Kyles scored tries for North Otago.

It is back to Dunedin this weekend for North Otago, which plays Alhambra-Union.