South Canterbury hangs on to beat North Otago

Dan Lewis
Dan Lewis
South Canterbury repelled a series of frantic North Otago attacks on its goalline over the last 10 minutes to beat its southern neighbour 36-29 at Alpine Energy stadium on Saturday.

The Heartland Championship leader hit almost immediately after the kick-off. Fullback Liam Edwards broke from a scrum and sent left winger Kalavini Leatigago across for the first of his three tries.

Nine minutes later, with South Canterbury feeding off North Otago’s kicking game, openside flanker Nick Strachan was involved twice in a movement which sent halfback Willie Wright in for a  try.

It was converted by Wright to take South Canterbury out to a 12-0 lead after just 12 minutes.North Otago first five-eighth Dan Lewis opened North Otago’s account with a penalty three minutes later.

At the end of the first quarter, South Canterbury No8 Brad Hemopo scored an unconverted try to give his side a 17-3 lead.

North Otago changed its kicking tactics early in the second quarter, which largely negated Edwards’ counterattacking game. When a kick ahead was muffed by Hemopo, Lewis was on hand to touch down and convert, bringing North Otago to 17-10. North Otago closed the gap 10 minutes from halftime when Lewis and prop Ralph Darling combined for Lewis to break the line and centre Lisala Halaleva sliced through for a try to narrow take the score to 17-15.

Four minutes from halftime, the ball was spun to right winger Leatigago who went across for his second try giving South Canterbury a 22-15 halftime lead.

Vatiliai Tora outpaced the defence three minutes into the second half to score for Wright to convert and take South Canterbury out to a 29-15 lead.

North Otago hit back almost immediately.

Lewis chipped a penalty into the corner, Josh Clark won the lineout for Robbie Smith to feed second five-eighth Lemi Masope, who carved through to score for Lewis to convert and take the score to 29-22.

A Tora break six minutes later opened up North Otago and Leatigago went in for his third try which Wright duly converted to take his side to a 36-22  lead.

But North Otago refused to lie down even when flanker Junior Fakatoufifita was yellow carded for 10 minutes in the third quarter. The last  10 minutes belonged to North Otago as it parked on the South Canterbury goal-line and hammered the tiring defence.

The visiting team was rewarded when, from another penalty, lineout prop Meli Kolinisau went close  before Masoe was on hand to breach the defence and score his second try which Lewis converted to give North Otago two bonus points.

Shayne Anderson was the danger man in the South Canterbury backline, proving adept at creating space for his speedsters, while Strachan stood out in the forwards.

Captain Ralph Darling led from the front for North Otago, while Josh Clark was dominant in the lineouts, Tom McDonald had another top performance and Mika Mafi was the dominant forward in general play.

Buchan showed his talent with a brilliant break late in the game.

In other Heartland games, Mid Canterbury beat Wanganui 40-39, while Horowhenua Kapiti moved into second place with a 52-3 win over East Coast.

Thames Valley moved up to third with a 45-36 win over King Country, while Buller filled fourth place after a 29-24 win over Wairarapa-Bush.

In the Lochore Cup section, the middle four, Whanganui and Mid Canterbury are on 16 points followed by West Coast and North Otago, both on 14 points.

In the curtain-raiser in Timaru, the North Otago Development XV beat South Canterbury 43-31.

- Terry O'Neill


Heartland Championship
The scores

South Canterbury 36

Kalavini Leatigaga 3, Brad Hemopo, Vatiliai Tora, Willie Wright tries; Wright 3 con

North Otago  29

Lemi Masoe 2,Lisala Halaeva,  Dan Lewis tries; Lewis 3 con, pen

Halftime: 22-15 South Canterbury

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