Otago Country rolls sleeves up for hard-fought win

Otago Country has wrapped up its season with a hard-fought 22-20 win over a more fancied Canterbury Country side in Balclutha.

Playing with a strong breeze at its back in the first half, the Otago Country side controlled territory and possession. Its set piece pressured its opposition, which made Canterbury Country try exit plays that were not helped by the weather. It did everything it could to break the Canterbury defence but it held strong. Otago Country prop Stu Young broke the deadlock with a nice individual try. He beat several defenders from the base of the ruck to cross the line. Angus Gibb added a penalty to match the Canterbury Country score at halftime: 8-8 was the score at the break.

Playing into the wind in the second half, the Otago Country team knew it was going to be a tough ask but it rolled up its sleeves and went to work. It managed to hold on to the ball and build phases, and it recycled the ball well and kept it in tight. That continuity allowed it to make metres and drive its way into the opposition half. Otago Country opened the scoring in the second half when Angus Gibb ran on to a lovely pass from replacement first five Jason Richan to score. This gave the side confidence that their game plan into the wind was working and to dig deep for each other.

Its attack continued to make metres and was once again rewarded as lock Kerrod Baldwin scored in front of his home crowd to increase the lead. Gibb converted both tries to take the score out to 22-8. The momentum swung Canterbury Country’s way for the latter part of the second half. It attacked and found space in behind the Country defence. It crossed for two late tries, one of which was converted to close the gap and make the last few minutes exciting for the crowd.  With time up on the clock, Canterbury Country was awarded a penalty within kicking distance. Second five Brook Retallick sent it wide to give Otago Country a well-deserved win.

So many players stood out for the Otago Country side. It was a real team effort and everyone played their part. Centre Simon Lloyd had an enormous game on defence, while replacement Richan made a huge difference in the second half. The loose forward trio of Daniel Hurring, Aiden Winter and Ollie McLelland were immense and got through a mountain of work. The Canterbury Country side played well but  could not create enough to win the game. Captain Mark Maitland had a strong game; his running game caused issues, as you would expect.Its forward pack stood up but could not gain the ascendancy needed. 

- Francis Parker

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