No win but coach proud of Heartland efforts

Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru has favoured the home side, South Canterbury, with North Otago’s successes restricted to elusive victories.

The last was last season, when, in the second match of the 2019 season, North Otago won 26-20, taking the Hanan Shield in the process.

On Saturday a young North Otago rugby side got within eight points of an upset, but was beaten 37-29 after trailing 8-22 at halftime.

For coach Jason Forrest it augured well for the 2021 season.

"I couldn’t be more proud of what the boys produced today against a big, physical South Canterbury side.

"We were slow to start but battled in the early stages but worked back to trail 8-12 after 24 minutes," Forrest said.

A strong norwesterly wind was blowing straight down the ground, making things difficult.

"The opposition had some big men in the forward pack and the boys were guilty of missing a few tackles, but it was just some execution that we’ve got to work on," he said.

"We took further steps in our building phase and already we’ve got 18 players who have indicated they’ll be back next season.

"It’s just been getting the boys to realise just what is expected of them.

"Sure, they missed a few tackles but we felt we were in with a chance with 12 minutes remaining.

"But we did produce some raw defence and many of the side are just on the edge of first-class rugby."

He cited 18-year-old locks Oliver Kinzett and Blake Welsh and a young prop, Kelepi Funaki, while the likes of rugged prop Meli Kolinisau and hardworking Josh Hayward had been "cornerstones of the pack".

South Canterbury No8 Siu Kakala opened the scoring with a try converted by first five-eighth Faalele Iosua, before Hayward surged over for North Otago.

Lock Henry Bryce added an unconverted try for the home side before North Otago first five-eighth Tyler Burgess kicked a penalty.

But the second quarter of the first half belonged to the home side when blindside flanker Tangi Savielo scored and Iosua’s conversion took it to a 19-8 lead.

A late penalty by Iosua gave his side a 22-8 halftime lead.

South Canterbury struck early in the second half with tries to halfback Theo Davidson and Junior Faavae.

An Iosua penalty took South Canterbury to a 32-15 lead before tries to North Otago midfielder Samuel Tatapu and replacement forward Cameron Rowlands brought it within three points of the home side at 32-29.

However, a second try to hooker Faavae took South Canterbury out to a winning score of 37-29.

 - Terry O'Neill

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