Under-pressure North Otago step up against Country

Heartland coach Jason Forrest. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Impact players can turn a game.

North Otago’s bench took it to another level, running home a 38-17 win against Otago Country in Oamaru last Saturday. The match was the final pre-pseason game before this weekend’s Heartland opening round.

Inoke Fisilau was injected into the game at the 10›minute mark for injured fullback Josh Phipps, and in the second half, Seta Koroitamana — a Canterbury loan player, Levi Emery and Manulua Taiti all played a big part.

Coach Jason Forrest said the whole bench ‘‘changed the game’’ and he was pleased with the overall performance from this side.

‘‘It’s about the squad, it’s about the 23, so really happy with the guys that made impact off the bench and that’s something we do have a little bit of depth around this year which is pretty good,’’ Forrest said.

North Otago was slow to start and Otago Country put it under a lot of pressure defensively in patches.

But the Old Golds were able to weather the storm and played some good running rugby — especially in the final 20 minutes, Forrest said.

‘‘We dug ourselves out of a couple of big holes.

‘‘All in all, really good — another step up from the week before.

‘‘Obviously we’ve got some stuff to work on but [we’re] really happy with how we came away with a good win.’’

Phipps and replacement halfback Tyron Davies were injured in the match and have been ruled out of the opening Heartland match on Sunday.