Heartland game has possible silver lining

Taina Tamou
Taina Tamou
The North Otago-Mid Canterbury Heartland game this afternoon will be a double-barrelled contest with more than Heartland Championship points at stake.

North Otago will also defend the Hanan Shield, the trophy it took from South Canterbury earlier in the season.

For North Otago (19 points), in fourth place behind South Canterbury (22), West Coast (22) and Thames Valley (21), a win would raise its hopes of making the Meads Cup four.

North Otago coaches Jason Forrest and Nick Anderson have selected a more conventional forward pack for the Mid Canterbury clash. A week ago, the pair selected a bulkier forward pack in an effort to match the Whanganui forwards but this week they have gone for more pace in the loose.

Marcus Balchin
Marcus Balchin
Marcus Balchin, who came on in the second half against Whanganui, will start on the openside flank. Josh Clark will drop back to No8, Jacob Coghlan will start on the blindside flank, and locks Charles Elton and William Kirkwood will combine in the second row.

Adam Johnson returns to the left wing, while Samuel Tatupu has been replaced in midfield by the aggressive Taina Tamou.

Mid Canterbury coach Dale Palmer is in his first season as Heartland coach.

"We've got a lot of young fellows and we try to support the local lads as well as we can and try to build some depth.

"The season has seen us perform reasonably apart from in the last couple of games but we went pretty well against West Coast [41-43], South Canterbury [13-13] and we had a win over East Coast [22-15]."

Palmer's team has been hit by injuries but he expects a good performance today.

"We've had a few injuries over the last couple of games and we've had a few changes in the backline but I feel we're not far away from clicking. One or two of the young players are showing form, like prop Tom Heywood who is a strong defender as well, while in the backs we have a talented first five-eighth in Corey McKay, who learnt some of his rugby down in the Taieri."

Palmer expects the Hanan Shield will motivate his side.

"The boys know that playing for it is a great thing and it gives us something really to play for on Saturday. It will definitely lift us."

North Otago v Mid Canty

Oamaru, 2.30pm today

North Otago: Patrick Pati, Howard Packman, Lemi Masoe, Taina Tamou, Adam Johnson, Michael Williams, Robbie Smith, Josh Clark, Marcus Balchin, Jacob Coghlan, William Kirkwood, Charles Elton, Melikisua Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess (captain), Ralph Darling. Reserves: Jake Greenslade, Kelepi Funaki, Michael Mata’afa, Manulua Taiti, Anthony Arty, Samuel Tatupu, Lachlan Kingan.
Mid Canterbury: Matt McAtamney, Lima Savainea, Josh Nabakeke, Tyler Blackburn, Brian Matoramusha, Corey McKay, Will Mackenzie, Jon Dampney, Seta Koroitamana, Kody Nordquist, Matt Bentley, Eric Duff, Adam Williamson, Jackson Donlan, Tom Heywood. Reserves: Joel Leo, Matt Groom, Jacob Sutton, Sam Madden, Manasa Bari, Cory Sinclair, Richard Catherwood.

- By Terry O'Neill

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