Meads Cup final hopes slim despite big win

It was a good news-bad news weekend for North Otago.

An entertaining 45-29 win over Buller in Westport has kept the Old Golds right in the Heartland Championship playoff hunt with two rounds to play.

They sit in a three-way tie for third on 20 points with Mid Canterbury — which they thumped in round three — and Whanganui.

The problem is that there is now clear air at the top,
and North Otago’s chances of defending the Meads Cup are looking rather slim.

Both South Canterbury — which has never won the Meads Cup, and everyone south of the Waitaki would love to keep it that way — and Thames Valley have won six from six.

South Canterbury beat Whanganui 28-14 in Timaru on Saturday to maintain a perfect record and move to the maximum 30 points, while Thames Valley beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 28-11 to move to 28.

With games against Mid Canterbury and West Coast over the final two rounds, South Canterbury looks a sure bet to claim one of the Meads Cup spots, as it is a straight final in a Covid-abbreviated season.

Thames Valley also has the luxury of playing struggling King Country this weekend.

So, with a top-two place looking highly unlikely, North Otago faces a big game against Whanganui this weekend with third spot, and home advantage for the Lochore Cup, on the line.

The Old Golds just need to produce the sort of form they showed against Mid Canterbury and in the first half against Buller on Saturday.

They scored their first of five first-half tries after just four minutes, and rolled to a 33-3 lead at the break on the back of a dominant scrum and a backline sparked by fullback Levi Emery.

But North Otago’s consistency dipped in the second half, and while the result was never in doubt, the fact Buller came roaring home with four tries — three to winger Mitieli Kaloudigibeci — would have furrowed some eyebrows.

Flanker Toni Taufa continued his excellent season with a pair of tries in the first half, and there was a lovely moment late in the game when schoolboy winger Asesela Ravuvu scored on debut.

The home team had a memorable cameo of its own to celebrate.

Prop Phil ‘‘Dozer’’ Beveridge came off the bench to earn his 176th cap at the ripe age of 47, following an SOS from the coach.

He made his debut for Buller at the age of 18 in 1993.

There was drama in Ashburton as Mid Canterbury had the first golden-point win in Heartland rugby.

Tom Reekie kicked a penalty to lead Mid Canterbury to a 22-19 win over Poverty Bay.

West Coast pipped East Coast 39-34, and Wairarapa-Bush beat King Country 24-12.


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