North Otago were toppled 17-9 by Buller in their opening Heartland Championship tie at Victoria Square in Westport on Saturday.
After an impressive preseason, North Otago coach Mike Mullins anticipated a tough clash against Buller, and 2013 Lochore cup finalists did not disappoint.
Old Golds first five-eighth Stephen Fenemor opened the scoring with a penalty in the third minute but the home side quickly replied with the only try of the contest five minutes later.
First five James Lash found Peni Nabainivalu with a well executed pass, the second five-eighth then put the hammer down to cross the line out wide, but Lash failed to convert.
Buller began to look menacing, adding to their points tally with a long-range penalty from Andrew Stephens but the consisted boot of Fenemor gave the old Golds the edge with two more penalties inside the 30 minute mark to put his side 9-8 ahead.
It looked as though the visitors would take the narrow lead in to the break but James Lash had other ideas, the first five slotted a well-taken penalty to give the home side an 11-9 half time advantage.
Lash added two more penalties in the second period to give his team the win and four points.
North Otago coach Mike Mullins said he was disappointed with the performance but will now focus on Saturday’s clash.
“The other team played with a lot more hunger and played with more energy,” he said.
“Obviously we need to improve on the result, we need to get the win, it was one of our worst performances in a while, but in terms of winning this campaign it starts again for us this week.”
The Old Golds face a difficult encounter on Saturday against Poverty Bay who handed East Coast a 52-12 hiding in Gisborne.
Heartland Championship week one results;
King Country v Wairarapa Bush, 32-13.
Mid Canterbury v West Coast, 52-27.
Poverty Bay v East Coast, 52-12.
South Canterbury v Wanganui, 31-18.
Buller v North Otago17-9.
Horowhenua Kapiti v Thames Valley, 19-19.
By JAMES FORD