Solid first half gives North Otago victory

North Otago produced one of its best efforts in Heartland rugby on Saturday.

It marched to a six tries to one 34-10 victory over Mid Canterbury at Whitestone Stadium.

The victory lifted it to second-equal in the Heartland Championship with one round left until the playoffs.

After the game North Otago co-coach Jason Forrest was doubly happy, as the side retained the Hanan Shield.

After a confident first half, North Otago turned around with a 27-3 lead but concentration fell away.

"We probably took our foot off the throat in the second half but I suppose that can happen when you get a few points up.

"Sure, we made a few exchanges, but we only leaked one try.

"We knew we had to start well against Mid Canterbury and take them out of the game early but even at halftime we knew we knew the game wasn't won but when we scored early in the second half it took some sting out of the opposition."

But Forrest accepted that the performance was not perfect.

"We can still improve at the breakdown.

"Sure we're getting some calls against us but we gave away too many turnovers.

"On the positive side, our energy levels were high for the bulk of the game.

"Looking ahead to East Coast next week, we've got to stick to our structures and not worry about what they are going to throw at us.

"As far as injuries were concerned, No8 Josh Clark injured an AC joint so he'll have to be assessed during the week."

North Otago wasted little time and three minutes into the game centre Lemi Masoe dived over for the try from a melee.

Two minutes later, a scintillating 40m break by Robbie Smith ended when winger Adam Johnson put a foot into touch.

From the lineout Mid Canterbury's Eric Duff fired a loose ball and North Otago flanker Marcus Balchin intercepted to score.

Corey McKay kicked a penalty for Mid Canterbury five minutes later, before North Otago prop Meli Kolinisau charged 40m downfield.

Fellow prop Ralph Darling was on hand to score an unconverted try, giving North Otago a 27-3 halftime lead.

Three minutes into the second half, fullback Patrick Pati carved through the defence and Darling was on hand to score his second try, which Smith converted.

Mid Canterbury had the final say, when blindside flanker Kody Nordquist galloped 40m to score and McKay converted.

In other Heartland results, Thames Valley beat South Canterbury 28-24, Wairarapa-Bush downed Horowhenua-Kapiti 25-20, Wanganui was too strong for King Country 57-19, Buller upset West Coast 40-7 and Poverty Bay held off East Coast 24-20.

Heartland points going into the final round of qualifying are: Thames Valley 25, North Otago 24, Wairarapa-Bush 24, South Canterbury 23, Wanganui 23, West Coast 22, Buller 21, Poverty Bay 19, Horowhenua-Kapiti 16, Poverty Bay 14, King Country 13, Mid Canterbury 10, East Coast 2.

 - Terry O'Neill

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