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Making his mark . . . North Otago halfback Mataitini Feke breaks through a tackle. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

North Otago rugby coach Jason Forrest is happy for his young side to be considered the underdog before tomorrow’s game against South Canterbury.

Many considered last year’s side the same – then it went on to win the Meads Cup.

“We are young, we are new to the level,” Forrest said.

“We got better and better last year and we are in the same scenario right now.

“It’s that never-say-die attitude that I want to get into these players, that regardless of the score, we never give up.”

Forrest expected tomorrow’s clash against South Canterbury to be physical, but said his players were up for the challenge.

“[South Canterbury is] a big catchment area – a lot of players and some big boys,” he said.

“We just have to front up physically, front up with the line speed, and then just make our tackles.”

The Hanan Shield will be on the line for each game this season, as will a new trophy – the Placemakers Challenge Cup.

North Otago added the Speight’s Challenge Trophy to its cabinet at the weekend after beating Otago Country 41-38 in a 13-try exhibition in Twizel.

At halftime, North Otago was down 24-15, but turned things around in the second half for a thrilling win, secured by a Sione Kavatoe try two minutes before the final whistle.

Forrest said there was a “bit of optional tackling” from both sides, but he was happy to get the win.

“[Otago Country] were a good side. They have 15 or 16 clubs to choose [players] from.

“What we are happy about is that [North Otago] players responded to what we talked about at halftime.

“It was a young side and we have only had two trainings.”

Halfback Mataitini Feke scored two tries, brought physicality around the ruck and distributed well.

Kelepi Funaki and Junior Fakatoufifita continued their strong form, while Kavatoe looked sharp out wide.

Tomorrow’s game at Whitestone Contracting Stadium starts at 2.30pm.

Under Level 2 restrictions, a limited number of tickets are being sold through the North Otago office. There will be no gate sales on the day.