OLD GOLDS WRAP
You could not have asked too much more of North Otago than this.
A comprehensive 57-14 win over a poor East Coast team at Whitestone Contracting Stadium finally gets North Otago into a Meads Cup position.
The Old Golds will have to work hard to stay there (see below) but destiny remains in their own hands.
Backs scored eight of the home side’s nine tries, and some of those five-pointers were moments to cherish.
North Otago forwards took complete control up front, and that allowed the speedsters some room to move as gaps opened up everywhere.
There was the odd patch when East Coast retained the ball and looked moderately decent, but otherwise this was an old-fashioned thumping.
Hopefully, it is the final springboard North Otago needs for three big weeks as it chases its third Meads Cup.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Obviously tempting to go with the whole backline here.
Josh Buchan and Matthew Vocea revelled in the opportunity to run with the ball, newcomer Lio Lolo showed some flashes of brilliance, and both Antini Brown and Dan Lewis had good spells at first five.
The standouts in the dominant pack were Filipo Veamatahau, all fire and brimstone off the back of the scrum, and Jared Whitburn, the rangy lock who had a barnstorming game.
OTHER HEARTLAND GAMES
The big results were in Ashburton, where Buller, inevitably powered by scoring machine James Lash, staged a phenomenal comeback to beat Mid Canterbury 40-32, and in Levin, where Horowhenua-Kapiti ground out a 15-8 win over Wanganui. James So’oialo kicked five penalties for the home team.
South Canterbury maintained top spot with a 29-20 win over Wairarapa-Bush in Timaru, Poverty Bay continued its minor resurgence with a 43-29 win over King Country in Gisborne, and West Coast stayed in the hunt with a 24-17 win over Thames Valley in Greymouth.
“There were times when we dropped to their standard and tried that throw-it-from-everywhere style which they play. But then we managed to gather momentum and get some structure back to our game, and we improved a lot. The forward pack stood up, big time. They’ve laid a platform all season and showed we can mix it with the best. There will be no backward step this weekend. It’s pretty clearcut. The boys know things have got real, and they’re looking forward to the challenge.” – Nigel Walsh
It’s the final round, and multiple battles within the overall battle.
Nine teams contest eight playoff positions – Thames Valley or Poverty Bay (they play each other in Te Aroha) will drop out.
Five teams realistically contest four Meads Cup positions – North Otago (fourth) plays Wanganui (sixth) up north in what is essentially a quarterfinal.
Buller (third) hosts Horowhenua-Kapiti (second) – basically a clash to determine who hosts a Meads Cup semifinal – King Country plays Mid Canterbury in Taupo, and Wairarapa-Bush hosts West Coast.
The only relatively obvious result is in Ruatoria, where pointless East Coast hosts Meads Cup favourite South Canterbury.
It boils down to this for North Otago.
Best case: Beat Wanganui, qualify third, beat Horowhenua-Kapiti or Buller in an away semifinal, hope one of those two teams upsets South Canterbury in the other semifinal, the Old Golds host the Meads Cup final.