King Country a bridge too far

North Otago could not string together a third close win in a row, going down 22-18 to King Country in Taumarunui.

The North Otago side had opened the season with close wins over Buller and Mid Canterbury but could not get in front of King Country.

North Otago led 10-3 at the break but the home team got its game going in the second half and worked hard to secure the victory.North Otago coach Nigel Walsh was philosophical after the game.

"We couldn’t quite pull out the Houdini act on the day but it could have gone either way. We made a few mistakes and, really, that cost us in the end. So it will be back to the drawing board on Tuesday night," he said.

"Despite the result, our scrum went very well, as did our lineout. There were some good plays across the park. I’m not making excuses but the 12 hours’ travel may have affected some of them."

North Otago played well in patches but made too many sloppy errors and leaked too many turnovers.

"We got turned over in the ruck area. We’ll have to work at that area but we are not far away in this area."

North Otago lock Anthony Amato, playing his first Heartland game, had a big game, while Meli Kolinisau and Ralph Darling in the front row scrummaged well.

Taina Tamou in midfield had a strong game and the opposition defence found winger Simon Lillicama very hard to handle.

King Country first five-eighth Evaan Reihana opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a penalty before North Otago hit back with tries to flanker Junior Fakatoufifita and lock Amato to help establish the 10-3 lead at halftime.

The third quarter belonged to King Country as centre Alex Thrupp and lock Rob Sherson scored tries, both of which were converted by Reihana.

North Otago first five-eighth Josh Buchan replied with a solitary penalty to bring the score to 17-13. King Country halfback Zayn Tipping extended his side’s lead to 22-13 and North Otago’s reply was an unconverted try from lock Pita Sinamoni.

In other third-round games, Mid Canterbury beat West Coast 36-29, Thames Valley defeated Buller 43-22, Wairarapa-Bush accounted for East Coast 26-5 and Wanganui downed Poverty Bay 53-0, while yesterday in Wellington, South Canterbury beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 52-22.

- Terry O'Neill


Heartland rugby
The scores

King Country 22

Alex Thrupp, Rob Sherson, Zayn Tipping tries; Evaan Reihana pen, 2 con

North Otago  18

Junior Fakatoufifita, Anthony Amato, Pita Sinamoni tries; Josh Buchan pen

Halftime: 10-3 North Otago.

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