Last weekend’s Meads Cup semifinals could not have gone much better for North Otago.
The Old Golds survived a late comeback from Wairarapa-Bush to win 27-25 and, because fourth-placed qualifier Wanganui upset Thames Valley 20-15, secured a home final.
Kick-off is at Whitestone Contracting Stadium tomorrow at 3.05pm.
North Otago has come out firing in its games all season – and last Saturday was no exception.
The forwards mixed up their running angles off halfback Robbie Smith and generated quick ball.
Hayden Tisdall, who was called into the starting line-up after captain Sam Sturgess was injured, showed he was not overawed by the occasion and burrowed over the line to get North Otago on the board.
The hard-fought first half ended at 14-10 to North Otago, but the Old Golds burst into life shortly into the second half with two tries to electric winger Howard Packman either side of a Smith penalty to extend the lead to 27-13
The second was a beautiful team try that started deep in North Otago’s half – Adam Johnson put in a lovely grubber that was regathered, and the ball was spread wide to Packman.
with two late tries of its own, but the day belonged to North Otago.
The Old Golds’ scrum was dominant, the lineout solid and the players all played as a team – more often than not, players would take the ball to ground knowing support was nearby.
When the ball went wide, it did so with accuracy and intent, with Taina Tamou and Lemi Masoe taking good options.
North Otago coach Jason Forrest was pleased with the way North Otago responded in the early stages of the second half.
“We knew they were going to throw everything at us in the last 10 minutes,” Forrest said.
“We didn’t react to some of it very well, but, at the end of the day, we got away with it.”
Things do not get any easier for North Otago tomorrow.
Wanganui has won the Meads Cup six times, and after a horror start to the 2019 season, losing its first three games, won five on the trot to qualify for last weekend’s semifinals – including a 27-22 victory over North Otago last month.
“We just need to front up physically, they are a big side,” Forrest said.
“In finals, defence wins you games, we are pretty confident we can score points.
“Yes it’s a big final, but lets go out and do what we’ve done for the last three weeks – we are just going to go our business, it’s got us this far.”
North Otago team to play Wanganui:
Ralph Darling, Hayden Tisdall, Meli Kolinisau, Charles Elton, William Kirkwood, Jacob Coghlan, Marcus Balchin, Josh Clark, Robbie Smith, Michael Williams, Howard Packman, Taina Tamou, Lemi Masoe, Adam Johnson, Patrick Pati. Reserves: Kelepi Funaki, Michael Mata’afa, Mathew Duff, Manulua Taiti, Anthony Arty, Matthew Vocea, Lachlan Kingan.