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Last Saturday against King Country was no exception. North Otago got home 28-26 in a third close match in four weeks, but co-coach Nigel Walsh was far from dejected.
"Sure, it wasn’t one of our better performances and we’ve still got a lot to improve on.‘‘But the win put us back on track. After all, to play poorly and still win is a bit of a bonus.
"Sure, it wasn’t easy out there. There was a lot of offside and it was messy but I take my hat off to the boys for the way they came back in the second half, took control and did the job."
King Country first five-eighth Reece MacDonald kicked the first of his four penalties in the third minute. Two minutes later, North Otago second five-eighth Don Lolo finished off a counterattack initiated by North Otago fullback Josh Buchan and right winger Matthew Vocea, for first five-eighth Dan Lewis to convert.
Lewis added a penalty six minutes later to take the home side out to a 10-3 lead. Eight minutes later, North Otago centre Lemi Masoe broke the King Country defence. No8 Mika Mafi then linked with fullback Josh Buchan, who touched down to take North Otago out to a 15-3 lead.
The second quarter saw King Country charge back into contention, with right winger Alex Thrupp making the most of some slack North Otago tackling to score just before halftime. McDonald kicked further penalties in the 28th and 30th minutes before Thrupp’s try eight minutes from halftime. McDonald’s conversion gave King Country a 16-15 halftime lead.
A Lewis penalty seven minutes into the second half put North Otago back into an 18-16 lead.
McDonald then scored a fine try to a conversion to put his side into a 23-18 lead. Lewis narrowed the gap with his third penalty to two points before the Lolos, Lio and Don, combined from broken play when Lio snapped up the ball 20m out and Don was on hand to take the final pass and score for Lewis to convert and take North Otago back into a 28-23 lead. King Country could only reply with a McDonald penalty four minutes from fulltime.
In other games, South Canterbury beat Wanganui, West Coast downed Horowhenua-Kapiti 24-18, Thames Valley defeated Buller 26-7 , Mid Canterbury smashed Wairarapa 60-24 and Poverty Bay beat East Coast 35-15.
- Terry O'Neill
North Otago v King Country
North Otago 28
Don Lolo 2, Josh Buchan tries; Dan Lewis 3 pen, 2 con
King Country 26
Alex Thrupp, Reece MacDonald tries; MacDonald 4 pen, 2 con
Halftime: 16-15 King Country