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It is in third place behind competition leader Whanganui and Horowhenua Kapiti. Buller was outscored four tries to three by North Otago, which earned two bonus points to lie in sixth place.
Frustration was not a word used by North Otago coach Nigel Walsh, but it surely must have been in his thoughts immediately after the game.
"We’ve just got to learn how to close these games out," Walsh said.
"That’s the second game that we let slip.
"But there are a hell of a lot of positives out of it.
"We concentrated on a lot of things this week and we saw improvement in most things.
"To come to Buller and be down 10-27 and be up 31-30 with five to go is a huge credit to the boys.
"Buller is no easy-beat. They haven’t been in the semifinals and finals just for no reason. They’re a good side."
North Otago scored early through the everpresent Ralph Darling. Fullback Josh Buchan converted and added a penalty to give North Otago a 10-0 after 10 minutes.
Momentum gradually swung back Buller’s way and big centre Iliesa Ravudra scampered 20m to score.
Buller tighthead prop Anthony Ellis crashed over a few minutes later to help his side snatch the lead.
The home side was back on attack almost immediately. Jame Lash chipped the defence, regathered and scored.
He added two penalities to give his side a healthy 27-10 halftime lead.
The second half belonged to North Otago. Flanker Junior Fakatoufifita and fullback Buchan scored tries to reduce the deficit to six points. North Otago took the lead 31-30 with a sparkling try to first five-eighth Antini Brown.
With five minutes remaining, North Otago was on attack but lost control of the ball and Buller swept upfield.
It moved the ball into the centre of the park and Lash nailed a dropped goal to seal a dramatic win.In other games, Whanganui beat Poverty Bay 25-14, Horowhenua-Kapiti hung on to down Thames Valley 13-10 and South Canterbury accounted for Mid Canterbury 31-16.
- Terry O'Neill
Iliesa Ruvudra, Anthony Ellis, James Lash tries; Lash 3 con, 3 pen, dropped goal
North Otago 31
Ralph Darling, Josh Buchan, Junior Fakatoufifita, Antini Brown tries; Buchan pen, 4 con