OLD GOLDS WRAP
It was far from vintage, but a 34-12 win over Poverty Bay will do.
With three tries in the bank before halftime despite having virtually no ball in the first 15 minutes, North Otago looked to be heading into the Whitestone Contracting Stadium sheds with some confidence at 24-0.
Hooker Petelo Pouhila, lurking on the left wing, scored first for North Otago, followed by winger Matthew Vocea after a fine clearance kick by first-five Antini Brown put the visiting side under pressure. A wild pass, intercept and sideline conversion later, North Otago was up 14-0.
A nicely worked move five minutes before halftime sent Aaron Martin over, before Josh Buchan again nailed the tough sideline conversion. Buchan added to his tally with a penalty on the stroke of halftime to stretch the home side’s lead.
Poverty Bay came out stronger in the second half and two tries within the first 20 minutes narrowed the gap, but it never realistically threatened North Otago’s lead.
Another Buchan break resulted in Junior Fakatoufifita crossing the line after 75 minutes, while, in a nice touch, Lemi Masoe kicked a penalty in the final play of the game in his 100th first-class match.
Both teams made plenty of errors and North Otago’s decision-making was not the best at times, but the bonus point win means it is still a Meads Cup chance. The win leaves North Otago sixth in the Heartland Championship, two points off fourth.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Buchan was a standout at fullback, making plenty of breaks and showing his value as a goal kicker, and Brown controlled play well.
In the forwards, Ralph Darling was at his industrious best and Pouhila produced a strong performance. Josh Clark admirably filled the gap left by No 8 Mika Mafi, who played for Otago against Wellington, with a gutsy effort. However, North Otago does look stronger with Mafi at No 8 so the Old Golds will be keen to have him back this week.
OTHER HEARTLAND GAMES
South Canterbury continued its unbeaten run with a tight 45-38 win over a valiant West Coast in Greymouth. Mid Canterbury downed Thames Valley 25-16 in Paeroa, while, after two straight losses, Whanganui destroyed King Country 80-3 at Cooks Gardens.
Bottom-placed East Coast suffered another heavy defeat, 54-17, to Buller in Ruatoria, and Horowhenua Kapiti outclassed Wairarapa-Bush 38-12 at Westpac Stadium in a rare Sunday game.
“We got the win. We got our five points. I wouldn’t say it was a clinical performance by far, but we got what we needed. If we’re going to be competitive at the top, we’ve got to reduce our mistakes as well as those 50-50 balls to stay in the game. It’s a win, though, so we’ll take it.” – Nigel Walsh
OTHER REP GAMES
Development: Lost to South Canterbury 24-17 in Oamaru. The loss handed South Canterbury the Hanan Cup in a very tight development competition. North Otago’s “D squad” played some good rugby this season and promoted some players to the top team.
Under-14: Had two narrow losses (25-18 to Ellesmere, and 46-36 to Mid Canterbury) at a tournament in Ashburton. Coach Chris Cant said the boys played extremely well and scored some good tries. The team rallied after the loss of captain Henry Kay, who suffered a fractured leg on the first day.
It’s a simple formula for the Old Golds.
Beat winless East Coast by plenty, and stay in the Meads Cup hunt ahead of a huge away game against Wanganui.