Rugby: Patient approach sets North Otago up for win

North Otago made history on Saturday when it beat Wairarapa Bush to become the first New Zealand representative team to win a provincial first class match on an artificial surface.

The Old Golds had their moments but coach Barry Stevens was pleased by the way his side finished off the game.

''I felt we finished the stronger of the two sides and sort of took control of the game even though the score was close,'' Stevens said.

''The pleasing thing for us was that we created plenty of opportunities, but initially we didn't finish them off properly. We'd make a break and get a little excited and turn the ball over or knock it on.

''At halftime, we talked about being patient and to be prepared to take 10 or so phases to score a try, and in the final quarter they showed that when they stuck to the pattern and showed patience, they could take control of the game.''

North Otago rung the changes at halftime and Stevens was more than happy with the result.

''Samisoni Tongotongo had impact when he came on at No 8. Inoke Naufahu was lively as well, at halfback. The pleasing thing was that all the changes we made had impact and that's what we want from them.''

In the North Otago forwards, lock Taua Limuloa marked his return with a fine display, dominating the lineouts and expressing himself in the loose, while hooker Sam Sturgess continually tested the opposition's defence.

Ben Palmer grew in confidence at first five eighth and not only kicked the goals but proved to be elusive with the ball in hand.

Second five eighth Aleki Morris had an outstanding game attacking the opposition defensive line, and one of his intrusions created the winning points for North Otago, fullback Oscar Pamment was safe under the high ball and often initiated the counter attack, and centre Nathan Cargo showed sparkling pace to score the final try.

A Palmer penalty opened the scoring but Wairarapa Bush replied in kind and led 10-6 at halftime following a try to big So'otala Fa'aso'o.

Prior to the break, Fa'aso'o was yellow carded and it was not until seven minutes into the second half that he returned, giving North Otago a chance to get a grip on the game.

Sturgess was driven over the line after North Otago used the maul to good effect, but two penalties by Tim Priest gave the home side a 16-11 lead.

The clincher for North Otago came with nine minutes remaining when Morris split the defence and Cargo out paced the tiring chasers to score. Palmer converted to seal a second straight win for the Old Golds.

In other games, Mid Canterbury converted a late try to beat Wanganui 30-28, West Coast celebrated its 125th jubilee with a convincing 21-7 win over Buller, King Country caused a minor upset with a 34-28 win over Horowhenua Kapiti, Thames Valley beat Poverty Bay 43-37, and South Canterbury thumped East Coast 57-5.

By Terry O'Neill. 

Heartland Championship
The scores

North Otago 18
Sam Sturgess, Nathan Cargo tries; Ben Palmer con, 2 pen

Wairarapa Bush 16
So'otala Fa'aso'o try; Tim Priest con, 3 pen

Halftime: Wairarapa Bush 10-6.

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