Rugby: North Otago win the hard way

North Otago halfback Hamish McKenzie is tackled by West Coast No8 Nathan Iafeta during the...
North Otago halfback Hamish McKenzie is tackled by West Coast No8 Nathan Iafeta during the Heartland Championship match at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
North Otago grabbed the first win at the first major game at the Forsyth Barr Stadium but it did it the hard way.

The side scored five tries to two in defeating a fresh West Coast team 29-19 in a Heartland Championship battle, but it blew plenty of opportunities.

Time after time, North Otago broke the West Coast defence only to lose the ball with the line wide open or choose the wrong option.

It had some exciting players in winger Whiria Meltzer, who helped himself to three tries, and centre Faaitu Tuamoheloa, but if it had taken all the chances on offer, it would have easily scored a half-century.

North Otago captain Ralph Darling said it was a typical early-season match.

"We wasted a good few opportunities after creating a lot. Some of our option-taking let us down and it was that early season stuff where we lacked a bit of combination," he said.

He was very impressed by the stadium, wanting to take the ground back to Oamaru. The turf stood up well, he said.

North Otago coach Barry Matthews said his side was a bit skittery, and though he was happy to win, the side had gone away from its game plan.

West Coast coach Anthony Lawry said he was pleased with his side's first hit-out, considering it was the debut for many of his players.

"It's a good stepping stone for us, giving some guys their first game for the Coast, and it is a good experience for them," Lawry said.

"It is an outstanding facility and an incredible experience for our guys. I can't speak highly enough about it. It was dead level. Most grounds have a run-off from the centre but that was perfect. I'd like to take it home."

North Otago scored its first try after 10 minutes, halfback Hamish McKenzie sprinting 20m after a nice run from No8 Tevita Fifita.

Meltzer then scored halfway through the first half, skirting across from his other wing.

Shannon Donald had scored the first points on the ground after seven minutes with a simple penalty in front for the Coast.

Meltzer then scored his second try early in the second half, after being put in the gap by second five-eighth Luke Herden.

Herden scored four minutes later and North Otago threatened to open the floodgates but West Coast hit back and scored two tries on either side of Meltzer's third try.

Fifita had an outstanding game for North Otago, and fullback Billy Guyton ran well.

Best for the Coast was fullback Luke Hughes, while blindside flanker Rowan O'Gorman got through plenty of work.

Nth Otago v West Coas

North Otago 29
Whiria Meltzer 3, Hamish McKenzie, Luke Herden tries; Ben Patston, Billy Guyton con

West Coast 19
Rowan O'Gorman, Luke Hughes tries; Shannon Donald 3 pen

Halftime: North Otago 12-6

Crowd: About 7500


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