North Otago notched the first win of their Heartland Championship campaign with a 43-34 victory over Poverty Bay at the Whitestone contracting Stadium on Saturday.
The Old Golds were downed by Buller in Westport 17-9 in week one while Poverty Bay kicked off their season in emphatic style with a convincing 52-12 victory over East Coast
Chris Talanoa opened the scoring with an unconverted try inside five minutes but Poverty Bay were quick to reply through powerhouse prop Seymour Lambert, which centre Moss Doran duly converted for a 7-5 advantage.
Poverty Pay began to dominate possession but Mike Mullins’ side held firm before fullback Brynn Uriarau wheeled away to touch down under the posts. Doran slotted the conversion to extend his side’s lead.
North Otago returned fire through Fijian fullback Simeli Koniferedi on the 20-minute mark and first five-eighth Stephen Fenemor found his range to take the score line to 14-12.
Through sustained pressure, Poverty Bay were awarded with two penalties in quick succession, but Doran could only find the target once.
The away side began to look the more dominant, as former All Black Rico Gear showed his class on the wing with a quick-fire pass for lock Everard Reid to cross the line for his team’s third try of the encounter.
Gear was again at the centre of the action when he put the hammer down to touch down in the corner, from which Doran easily converted.
North Otago looked to hit back before the break but Poverty Bay’s defence remained sturdy for a 29-12 half-time lead.
The Old Golds returned for the second period with a renewed sense of vigour as wing Tenina Sauileoge broke away to dot down between the posts unchallenged for Fenenmor to easily convert.
North Otago looked to have found their rhythm, and a spot of luck, as Ralph Darling’s fortunately placed boot directed a wayward pass over the touchline for the hooker to chase down and smother for his side’s fourth try of the clash.
Ben Palmer took over kicking duties to convert for a 29-26 score line as North Otago looked to rein in Mutu Ngarimu’s side.
Palmer was on target again from a well-taken penalty to level proceedings on the hour.
Stalwart Lemi Masoe played a crucial role in North Otago’s next try. The centre’s relentless running allowed substitute Uliisoni Tahitua to get in on the action with a try.
Poverty Bay eventually came to life in the second half, with Everard Reid completing his brace. Doran failed to convert as North Otago held on to a slender 36-34 lead but lock Sale Pi’i alleviated the tense atmosphere among the North Otago faithful by touching down at the death.
Palmer struck the conversion well from out wide to deny Poverty Bay a much-deserved bonus point as the Old Golds ran out 43-34 winners.
Heartland Championship week two results:
Wairarapa Bush v Mid Canterbury Masterton, 23-23.
Thames Valley v King Country, 15-10.
Wanganui v Horowhenua Kapiti, 23-34.
West Coast v South Canterbury, 15-49.
East Coast v Buller, 6-62.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY – Soloman T-Pole on the run during North Otago’s 43-34 win over Poverty Bay at the Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday.