Midfield battle . . . North Otago second five-eighth Taina Tamou tries to breach the Horowhenua-Kapiti defence during the Heartland Championship rugby game at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

Look, it’s not the end of the world.
A 27-24 loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti might, in the wash-up of the season, even be seen as the point when North Otago regrouped and, stung by defeat, launched a run at Meads Cup glory.
The Heartland Championship is, predictably, extremely tight this season – a single point separates Wairarapa-Bush (fourth) and West Coast (ninth) – and there are still plenty of points to be won.
Still, it was hard to avoid the overall air of frustration at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday as the Old Golds fired too few shots, were a tad careless with the ball, and slipped to a second straight loss.
They looked good – really good – in bursts, especially when they moved the ball wide and showed they had far more weapons than Horowhenua-Kapiti.
North Otago led at halftime but that was with the wind, and there was a niggly feeling the home team had not scored enough points.
Horowhenua-Kapiti scored just before and just after halftime and, while the Old Golds dominated the final quarter, and threw everything into finding a way to win, they lost a game at home for the first time in nearly two years.
They’re not dominating the breakdown and some of the players do not seem quite on the same page, and they are two things which need to be quickly rectified.

Simon Lilicama really did not deserve to be in the losing side.
The North Otago fullback was the best player on the park, punching into the line with pace and strength, creating havoc wherever he ran, generally looking up for anything, and scoring his third try in four games.
Beside him, new winger Hemaua Samisoni looked likely and scored a cracking try, and Frank Kelly was an enthusiastic runner on the other side.
Josh Buchan had a Josh Buchan game – mixing some absolute brilliance, including a wonderful solo try, with some questionable decisions as he adjusts to the No10 jersey.
Up front, Anthony Amato showed glimpses of his talent at lock, and both Filipo Veamatahau and Mika Mafi were prominent in the loose.

“It showed on the faces – everyone was bitterly disappointed. It’s a game they let slip away, and they all know that. We had a plan in place and it wasn’t followed in the first 40 minutes. We’ve got to learn from this, and make sure everybody buys into what we want to do against Thames Valley. It’s do or die now. We need to control our own destiny and create our own opportunities. We need to show what we’re capable of doing, because we probably haven’t put a performance on the park that we’re happy with so far.” – Nigel Walsh

King Country confirmed its credentials with a 37-29 win over Thames Valley in Te Aroha to stay tied at the top with Wanganui, which beat Mid Canterbury 30-12 at Cooks Gardens.
Buller’s season from hell continued with a 61-29 loss to Wairarapa-Bush in Masterton, West Coast pipped Poverty Bay 31-30 in Greymouth, and South Canterbury had a 100-7 romp over pointless East Coast in Timaru.
Yes, we better mention the old enemy. That was a record win for South Canterbury, eclipsing the 94-7 thrashing of, ahem, some team in 1994.
The game was also notable for the debut, off the bench, of South Canterbury midfielder Lemi Masoe (that sounds weird), the veteran of 94 games for North Otago.

North Otago A: Lost to South Canterbury 39-27 in the curtain-raiser after trailing 22-15 at halftime. That was a third straight loss for the second-stringers. Halfback Glen Sturgess scored two tries and Jesse Porter and Antonio Misiloi grabbed one each.
Under-18: Lost to Otago Metro 75-0. City boys just too big and fast. Paea Fifita stepped up, and Ryley MacColl was also impressive.
Under-16: Lost to Otago Metro 86-0. Rough scoreline that did not reflect North Otago’s game effort. Kaleb McFarlane put in some big tackles, and Zak Johnson covered ground well at fullback.
Under-14: Lost to South Canterbury 55-35. Whole team stood up and showed big improvements from previous week.
Under-13: Lost to South Canterbury 90-10. Put up a spirited fight before the game got away. Rico Mitchell and Anish Raj played well in the fowards, and Alex Wilson and Hotili Asi again stood out in the backline.

So now we are getting close to must-win territory.
It needs to be a bounce-back game for North Otago when it heads to Te Aroha to play Thames Valley, another team with a 2-2 record.
The Old Golds clearly have the talent to be higher up the table. It is time for them to show it.

The scores
Horowhenua-Kapiti 27
Dylan Taylor, Kalim Kelemete, Timoci Serawalu tries; James So’oialo 3 con, 2 pen
North Otago 24
Simon Lilicama, Hemaua Samisoni, Josh Buchan tries; Buchan 3 con, pen
Halftime: North Otago 17-14.Nike air jordan Sneakers/New Releases Nike