OLD GOLDS WRAP
North Otago built an early lead then held on valiantly to post its first win of the season, beating Hanan Shield rival Mid Canterbury 31-25 at Whitestone Contracting Stadium.
The Old Golds scored three good tries in the first half to build an 11-point lead, and extended that to 18 points with a lovely individual try from first five Dan Lewis.
It was game over with 15 minutes to play, seemingly, before North Otago backs Sala Halaleva and Josh Buchan were sent to the sin bin, and Mid Canterbury capitalised on having two extra men to score two tries and put the wind up the home side.
Thankfully, for concerned home fans, North Otago muscled up and clung on for a bonus-point win.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Lewis obviously stole much of the spotlight with his 21-point haul. The young Englishman, who guided Valley to the Citizens Shield final, scored two tries and added 11 points with that exceptional left boot.
No 8 Mika Mafi showed all his strength and experience, regularly getting North Otago over the advantage line, while flanker Mat Duff was all over the park and a nuisance at the breakdown.
“Dropping down to 13 men for the last 13 or 14 minutes didn’t help. We put ourselves under pressure. But in saying that, the boys scrambled very well. I thought the forward pack really stepped up, leading the way and laying a good platform. That was a good step in the right direction.” – Nigel Walsh
OTHER HEARTLAND GAMES
Buller won the battle of the coast, James Lash kicking 19 points in a 34-19 win over West Coast, while Wanganui had to work much harder this week, relying on Craig Clare’s boot to squeak past Thames Valley 21-19.
Horowhenua-Kapiti continued its positive start with a 39-5 thumping of Poverty Bay, Kieran Coll scored two tries to lead South Canterbury to a 42-36 win over King Country, and Wairarapa-Bush was a comfortable 36-10 winner over East Coast.
OTHER REP GAMES
Every North Otago team played Mid Canterbury in Oamaru.
Development: Lost 46-25. Played well in the first half but struggled to maintain intensity. New No 8 Lio Lolo stood out, as did midfielder Isaac McNulty. Anthony Kent and Kelepi Funaki battled away, and Jared Whitburn and Marcus Balchin rallied to the cause.
Under-18: Lost 20-19. Ben McCarthy, Eli Winders and Sione Kaufusi had strong games.
Under-16: Won 22-10. Izaak Tauwhare produced an outstanding individual performance, and there were strong games from both Tupou Fifita and Cullen Johnstone.
Under-14: Won 50-37. Some excellent attacking play shown by centre Peleki Tangifolau and fullback Timothy Poasa. Forward pack stepped up, allowing Henry Kay to shine at halfback.
Under-13: Lost 26-19. Charlie Mathias again led from the front, making good yards, while Liam Mavor and Lotu Fifita had strong games in the loose. Sam Keno and Robert James were staunch on defence.
Under-12: Lost 77-0. Tried valiantly against a much bigger and physical side.
Another toughie. North Otago is off to Westport to play Buller, which has been one of the better Heartland sides in recent times.
It won’t be easy, but if the Old Golds can maintain their steady improvement, they should travel there confident of doing well.