Only two steps to Lochore glory

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Pass it on . . . North Otago first fiveeighth Ben Palmer looks to distribute during the Heartland Championship game against Mid Canterbury at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday. PHOTO: ADAM BINNS
Pass it on . . . North Otago first fiveeighth
Ben Palmer looks to distribute during the Heartland Championship
game against Mid Canterbury at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday. PHOTO: ADAM BINNS
‘It would be nice to finish with something’
HAYDEN.MEIKLE
@oamarumail.co.nz
North Otago captain Ralph Darling will not get his hands on two coveted pieces of silverware this season, but he will accept a consolation prize.
The Old Golds slipped out of Meads Cup contention after last week’s 3936 loss to Mid Canterbury, and also blew another opportunity to regain the Hanan Shield.
That just leaves the Lochore Cup, and step one is beating Horowhenua-Kapiti in the semifinal in Levin tomorrow afternoon.
‘‘It would be nice to bring some silverware home,’’ Darling said.
‘‘It’s not the one that we want, but it would be nice to finish with something.’’
Horowhenua-Kapiti beat North Otago 26-22 in the fifth round, but Darling is confident that can be reversed.
‘‘They bring a lot of flair and a lot of Xfactor to the game. But if you can get stuck into them early, and put a bit of self-doubt in there, they could crumble.’’
The shame of last week is that North Otago was arguably the better side and, with a little more luck, could have won the Hanan Shield.
Darling desperately wanted to make the winners’ speech but conceded there were some positives to emerge from the game.
‘‘It’s not good to lose, especially when the Hanan Shield is on the line. It was one we really wanted to win. It’s been three or four years and it would have been nice to bring it back.
‘‘But we finally sort of showed some of the potential we’ve got in this side. We didn’t make too many unforced errors. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been coughing easy ball up, and the skill level hasn’t been up to standard.
‘‘On Saturday, we showed what we could do when we get a little bit of the ball.’’
At 29, Darling is one of the veterans of a team that includes a handful of youngsters barely out of school. He is optimistic the Old Golds are building the nucleus of a very good side.
‘‘If we can keep the majority of the players together, we’re only going to get better,’’ he said.
‘‘It was always going to be a tough season. A bit of inexperience has let us down at times, but we’ve got young guys who are footing it with the best.
Another year together, and you never know.
‘‘I’m loving being out there with the younger boys. They’re hungry, they train well, and they keep us old fellas on our toes.’’
The captain has also enjoyed his relationship with new coach Barry Stevens, who has just been reappointed for another season.
If the Old Golds’ season ends this weekend, Darling will get more spare time to spent with his young family — but he hopes one more weekend of rugby is not too much to ask.