N. Otago lifts its act in closing out game

Nigel Walsh.
Nigel Walsh.
A gutsy finish enabled North Otago to hold on and beat Mid Canterbury in Oamaru on Saturday.

Reduced to 13 men with both Sala Halaleva and Josh Buchan in the sin bin, it tackled for 10 minutes to beat the visiting side 31-25.

Mid Canterbury trailed by 18 points at one point and threw everything at North Otago during that final period.

But North Otago finished well, in contrast to a week earlier, when it conceded two tries in the final four minutes to lose 22-19.

That was something coach Nigel Walsh said the team had talked about this week

"It was a bit like last week, but this time we had two players, centre Lisala Halaleva and fullback Josh Buchan, yellow carded, leaving our defence a little thin.

"But this weekend they scrambled well and did what we had to to get the team home.

"Those 13 guys left on the paddock worked hard, as Mid Canterbury were prepared to run from everywhere, but we scrambled and today the guys put their hands up and that was good.

"We had talked about it during the week, about how we could shut out a game, so it showed that today it was a step in the right direction."

The North Otago pack dominated against Mid Canterbury, especially in the set scrums.

"The pack certainly laid a good foundation, but we probably didn’t utilise it as well as we should have, while the lineouts went well. ‘‘It was a great step in the right direction.

"We’ve talked about staying in the fight and seeing the game out.

"They took that on board so I’m very happy for the boys. They deserve it."

Jarred Percival kicked an early penalty for Mid Canterbury before North Otago first five-eighth Dan Lewis latched on to a big intercept and raced 38m for a seven-pointer three minutes later.

Mid Canterbury winger Maleli Sau crossed and Percival converted for a seven-pointer to take their side into a 10-7 lead.

North Otago regained the lead 10 minutes from halftime when midfielder Lemi Masoe scored for Lewis to convert, taking the score to 14-10. Lewis added a penalty to make it 17-10.

Percival scored another penalty for Mid Canterbury before North Otago No8 Mika Mafi finished a 60m break from Buchan.

The conversion gave North Otago a 24-13 halftime lead.

Ten minutes into the second half, Lewis gave North Otago a 31-13 lead with a further try and conversion from a superbly placed chip ahead. The North Otago defence held until about 10 minutes from fulltime and the home side had to absorb everything  Mid Canterbury threw at it. It crumbled only twice, when Sam Finau crossed and Sau went in for his second 90 seconds from fulltime. Percival’s second conversion completed the score for Mid Canterbury.

In other second-round games, Horowhenua-Kapiti beat Poverty Bay 39-5, Wanganui had a 21-19 win over Thames Valley, after Thames Valley led 19-15 at halftime, and South Canterbury downed King Country 42-36 after leading 28-26 at halftime. Wairarapa-Bush led East Coast 17-0 at halftime and went on to win 36-10, while Buller defeated West Coast 34-19.

• The Mid Canterbury Development XV dominated the second half of the curtain-raiser to beat the North Otago Development XV 46-25.

-Terry O'Neill

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