Jason Forrest has been left with a headache following North Otago’s 27-19 win against King Country last Saturday.
The strong performance has made it difficult for head coach Forrest, and assistant coach Shane Carter, to select an Old Golds team for the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay at the end of the month.
Forrest and Carter named a lot of young players in the North Otago side, testing them at a higher level – and most thrived with the challenge.
North Otago was strong from the start against the touring King Country, and jumped out to a 10-0 lead, extended to 19-14 at half time.
A tap-and-go 70m out led to winger Sione Fa’aoso breaking through, before lock Adyn Anguna linked up with fellow lock Blake Welsh who scored under the posts.
Forrest was encouraged by the confidence with which the Old Golds played.
“That was outstanding from them to see that space and go for it. If they see the opportunity, they’ve just got to go for it.”
In the second half, King Country put in a good 20 minutes and performed well off the back of its rolling maul. The Old Golds took a while to settle, but came good to take the win and the Maroon and Gold Cup.
No 8 Mosese Aho was a strong ball carrier for North Otago, but when he pulled up injured, his replacement, Samuela Babiau, carried on his good work.
“[Babiau] was one that stood out for us in regard to not knowing too much about him at No 8.”
Forrest was rapt to see players who debuted last season, such as Oliver Kinzett, taking the step up and there were many players challenging for positions.
“[Kinzett] took massive steps last year in the Hanan Shield stuff . . . it’s just good to see him and those sort of guys coming through this year.”
Other players did not step up to the challenge so well, and had the next three trainings and club rugby matches to show the coaching staff what they were made of.
The next three weeks would be critical as the side prepared for its Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay. A 23-man squad would be named next Wednesday, and there would be some hard defence work in the lead up.
“It’s around making our tackles and just trying to shut them down as much as we can. We’ve got enough X-factor to be able to score some points when we do get ball.
“It’s just being clinical and working hard – our mindset is just about working hard, and working for each other around our defence.”
He was grateful to King Country for the warm-up match, and the North Otago clubs for releasing their players for last weekend’s match.