Win looks all but assured for North Otago

North Otago will have it all to play for when it takes on East Coast in Ruatoria today.

There are 10 teams still in the running for the playoffs in the Heartland Championship while eight of them could still squeeze into the top-four Meads Cup competition if results go to plan.

North Otago sits second on 24 points, one point behind leader Thames Valley, and will fancy its chances against East Coast which has lost 49 games in a row at Heartland Championship level.

However, East Coast at home has been known to grow another leg as it did last weekend, when it went down 24-20 to neighbour Poverty Bay.

The week before it got within a couple of points of sixth-placed West Coast.

North Otago will need to be well aware of the danger of overconfidence.

East Coast is without import Zac Guildford.

North Otago has not really stamped its mark on Heartland rugby yet this season.

It has won five of seven games this sesaon. The biggest winning margin was 24 points when it beat Mid Canterbury 34-10, scoring six tries, only two of which were converted.

Other victories were not as convincing but they were still wins.

The wins were recorded over South Canterbury (six points), Poverty Bay (four points) and Thames Valley (one point) while Wairarapa Bush was beaten 25-11 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

North Otago lost 18-17 to West Coast and 27-22 to Wanganui.

North Otago coaches Jason Forrest and Nick Anderson have been forced to make one change to the side, Jake Greenslade coming in at No8 in place of Josh Clark who has been sidelined with an AC injury.

The other games are obviously of utmost importance for North Otago and are knockout clashes for many.

Buller (21) will host Poverty Bay (19), Horowhenua-Kapiti(17) meets Wanganui (23) in Levin, King Country (13) plays Thames Valley (25) at Te Kuiti, Mid Canterbury (10) takes on Wairarapa-Bush (24) in Ashburton and, in what looks like the game of the round, South Canterbury (23) is at home to West Coast (22).

The top four teams play in the Meads Cup and the next four teams in the Lochore Cup.

North Otago v East Coast

Ruatoria, today, 2.30pm

North Otago: Patrick Pati, Adam Johnson, Lemi Masoe, Taina Tamou, Howard Packman, Michael Williams, Robbie Smith, Jake Greenslade, Marcus Balchin, Jacob Coghlan, William Kirkwood, Charles Elton, Melikilisau Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess (c), Ralph Darling. Reserves: Hayden Tisdall, Kelepi Funaki, Joshua Hayward, Manulua Taiti, Anthony Arty, Samuel Tatupu, Lachlan Kingan.

East Coast: Verdon Bartlett, BJ Sydney, Sam Vatubua, Tawhao Stewart, Epeli Lotawa, Chris Richardson, Sam Parkes, Hone Haerewa (c), Hoani Te Moana, Mitch Crosswell, Adam Ross, Scott Lasenby, Hakarangi Tichborne, Perrin Manuel, Laman Davies. Reserves: Lorn Goldsmith, Pera Bishop, Anton King, Ted Maxwell, Hamuera Baker, Billy Manuel, Benny Haerewa.

- By Terry O'Neill

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