OLD GOLDS WRAP
From woe to wonderful to whoops.
North Otago flirted with heavy defeat then a glorious comeback before slipping to a 33-31 loss to Buller in Westport.
Ralph Darling gave the Old Golds the early lead but the Coasters dominated the rest of the first half and held a commanding 17-point lead at the break.
Junior Fakatoufifita and Josh Buchan scored tries to ignite the North Otago comeback, and when first five-eighth Antini Brown, making his first start in a gold jersey, scored to make it 31-30, a marvellous win was on the cards.
Enter James Lash, the thorn in many a Heartland Championship team’s side. He slotted a late drop goal to finish with 23 points and give Buller the win.
North Otago had to settle for two bonus points, not the worst result from a difficult road trip.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Up front, Darling was again busy around the park, Josh Clark provided his usual huge workload, and Meli Kolinisau showed he is getting better each week.
Brown controlled the game well from No10, and Sefo Ma’ake gave the team some real spark off the bench with some good snipes around the ruck.
“We played some very good footy but then we took the foot off the throat. Down 27-10, we knew we could come out on top if we stuck to our structures. Up 31-30, the forwards were doing a great job, and we were either going to cross the line again or get a penalty. For some unknown reason, we tried a miracle ball and it was intercepted. The culture of the team is growing immensely, and a lot of our structures and game plan are developing well. It just means these next games have to be treated as test matches, and we need to finish them off. – Nigel Walsh
OTHER HEARTLAND GAMES
King Country, North Otago’s opponent this weekend, got off the mark with a 32-25 win over Wairarapa-Bush in Te Kuiti. A feature was the presence of former All Black halfbacks Alby Mathewson (King Country) and Piri Weepu (Wairarapa-Bush).
Horowhenua-Kapiti (13-10 over Thames Valley in Levin) and Wanganui (25-14 over Poverty Bay in Gisborne) maintained their unbeaten starts to the season, South Canterbury retained the Hanan Shield with a 31-16 win over Mid Canterbury in Ashburton, and West Coast beat East Coast 32-19 in Ruatoria.
OTHER REP GAMES
Development: Lost to Otago Country 43-42 in a thriller in Oamaru. Down 33-10 at halftime but played superbly in the second half to nearly seal a wonderful comeback. Tyler Burgess and Hamish Slater enhanced their reputations.
Under-18: Did not have a game. Southland pulled out as so many of its players were at the Top Four with Southland Boys’ High School.
Under-16: Lost to Southland 39-29 in Dunedin. Excellent team effort. Among the top performers were Bryden Skinner, Oliver Kinzett, Cullen Johnstone and Bayley Sullivan.
Under-14: Lost to Southland 90-0 in Dunedin. Competed well in the lineouts, where Anthony Docherty snaffled many Southland throws. Isaac Clunie also played well.
Under-13: Beat Otago Country 61-15 at Waikouaiti. Harvey Dundass had a strong defensive game, Logan Horwell scored a brilliant individual try from 75m, Tristin Toka and Levi Todd stepped up, and Tyree Manaia directed play well in the second half.
Under-12: Lost to Otago under-48kg 45-0 at Waikouaiti. Lock Kody Frew was powerful with ball in hand, and Meite Siale and Elisaie Earnest tackled well.
The Old Golds host King Country at 2pm on Saturday.
You hate to reach for that “must win” cliche but they need to bank maximum points or Meads Cup glory could be a forlorn dream.
It is at this stage of the season that you realise North Otago’s draw is rather difficult. Wanganui, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Buller and South Canterbury make up the top four, and North Otago plays all four on the road.