North Otago fell to 20-15 loss to Wanganui on Saturday in their second defeat of the Heartland Championship at Cooks Gardens.
The Old Golds went in to the tie with a record of one loss and one win after being toppled 17-9 by Buller in week one before downing Poverty Bay 43-34 in Oamaru last weekend but another lethargic start proved costly.
Wanganui completed a remarkable turnaround after losing 31-18 and 34-23 to South Canterbury and Horowhenua Kapiti respectively in their opening two ties.
The Old Golds looked to the firepower on the bench again but it was too little, too late and will now hope to pick up maximum points when King Country visit in week four.
Fullback Dane Whale played a perfectly weighted pass to Rhema Sagote, who linked with hooker Cole Baldwin as Wanganui swept to the line, with Bryn Hudson shrugging off four defenders to score the first try of the contest in the 13th minute.
Before his rib injury, winger Simon Dibben nearly landed a second try for Wanganui if Lindsay Horrocks’ chip kick had sat up for the winger.
Stephen Fenemor then struck a reply penalty for North Otago for a 7-3 halftime score.
Another darting run from Whale brought Wanganui back on attack after halftime, and while the ball was lost, the loose forwards held North Otago up and from the turnover scrum Rhema Sagote produced a powerful run to touch down.
Josh Hamilton added three points from in front of the posts for a 17-3 scoreline after 52 minutes as the home team began to look dominant.
North Otago returned fire as Both Ekeroma and Tenina Saulieoge’s linked for a length-of-the-field breakout and the visitors went hot on attack with Kieran Moffat showing skill to drag a wild pass down and score in the corner.
With the breeze behind him, Hamilton immediately replied with a 45m penalty for 20-8 with 14 minutes to play, before North Otago poured in for phase after phase as they ran the ball from their 50 metre line.
A series of bulldozing runs from North Otago was finished off by flanker William Keenan with Ben Palmer raising the flags to set up a pulsating finish.
Tenina Saulieoge sliced through again and all but scored two minutes later, but Wanganui were able to regain North Otago’s lost ball or force turnovers as the clock ran down.
Wanganui 20 (Bryn Hudson, Rhema Sagote tries; Josh Hamilton 2 pen, 2 con)
North Otago 15 (Kieran Moffat, Cameron Keenan tries; Ben Palmer con; Stephen Fenemor pen). HT: 7-3.
Heartland Championship week three results;
South Canterbury v Wairarapa Bush, 43-16.
Thames Valley v Mid Canterbury, 20-15.
Horowhenua Kapiti v East Coast, 37-10.
King Country v Buller, 29-53.
Poverty Bay v West Coast, 29-20.
PHOTO: LEWIS GARDNER – North Otago captain Josh Clark tries to hang onto Wanganui centre Tevita Faufu’I at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.