Old Golds not taking three-time Meads Cup champion lightly

Ralph Darling
Ralph Darling
North Otago will be hoping to mark North Otago captain Ralph Darling’s century of first class  games in style when North Otago meets Whanganui in the final qualifying Heartland round at Cooks Gardens this afternoon.

North Otago coach Nigel Walsh’s first aim is a win."

First and foremost we’ve got to win. What happens after that is out of our control.

"Look, we’ve got to give Whanganui respect. They’ve  won the Meads Cup three times and been in nine finals, so their wheels won’t fall off easily. They’re tough and hungry and want to get back on the road and will be very hard and very physical.

"It’s going to be a battle, but we’ve just got to remain composed and stay focused."

Currently North Otago lies in fourth place, two points ahead of Whanganui, and win, lose or draw this afternoon North Otago will make one of the Meads or Lochore semifinals.

"We have come a long way since the start of the season.We’ve got a good foundation from the pack up front and the backs have started to click and gel now as well.

"I’m happy where we are at the moment, but we must stay to our structures. East Coast last weekend  were a difficult team to play and we went into their style of play and we had to change our attitude, regain our composure and play the way we wanted to play."

North Otago will field its top team for the game. In the pack, Sam Sturgess will start at hooker after coming off the bench recently. Lock Tom McDonald joins Josh Clark in the second row after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Filipo Veamatahau, who impressed at No 8 against East Coast, goes to the blindside flank, with Mafi Mika coming back into the No 8 position.

In the backs there are no changes from the line-up that played against East Coast last week. In this final round, competition leaders South Canterbury should remain at the top after it meets East Coast in Ruatoria.

Second placed Horowhenua-Kapiti, a point ahead of Buller, will meet in Westport. Two points separate fourth placed North Otago  and Whanganui, while Mid Canterbury and West Coast, both  on 21 points, will meet King Country and Wairarapa-Bush respectively.

Thames Valley, currently eighth, will play Poverty Bay in Paeroa, with just three points between the two.

- Terry O'Neill

 

Heartland Championship
The teams

North Otago: Josh Buchan, Connor Newlands, Lio Lolo, Lemi Masoe, Matthew Vocea, Antini Brown, Robbie Smith, Mafi Mika, Morgan Dawes,  Filipo Veamatahau, Josh Clark, Tom McDonald, Meli Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess, Ralph Darling. Reserves: Anthony Kent, Joe Pickett, Matthew Duff, Jared Whitburn, Dan Lewis, Simon Lillicama, Aaron Martin.

Whanganui: Nick Harding, Simon Dibben, Kaveni Dabenaise, Dane Whale, Cameron Crowley, Cody Hemi, Lindsay Horrocks, Bryn Hudson, Jamie Hughes, Tremaine Gilbert, Campbell Hart, Sam Madams, Viki Tofa, Cole Baldwin, Kamipeli Latu. Reserves: Roman Tutauha, Hamish Mellow, Fraser Hammond, Cade Robinson, Tom Stewart, Ethan Robinson, Samu Kabunavanua.

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