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Three changes have been made to the North Otago side to play Wanganui in Oamaru this afternoon.
Samisoni Tongotongo, who came on against Wairarapa-Bush, has retained the No8 position and John Kelly goes to the reserves. Winger Sala Halaleva has recovered from injury and comes back on the right wing, while the experienced Lemi Masoe returns to centre.
Wanganui has brought back experienced lock John Smyth into the side for today's game. Smyth (31), who now plays for the Southern club in Taranaki, played 64 games for Wanganui. He last played for Wanganui in 2012, in the Meads Cup final against East Coast, after being named Heartland Player of the Year the previous season.
North Otago, which finished the stronger of the two against Wairarapa-Bush last week, can expect a rugged encounter from the Wanganui pack led by centurion open side flanker Peter Rowe. The front row will test North Otago's scrummaging. Hooker Cole Baldwin, with more than a half-century of caps, is backed up by the experienced locking duo of Smyth and Fraser Hammond (51 games).
Loan player Trinity Spooner-Neera, from the Napier Tech club, lines up at fullback and overseas player Poasa Waqanibau will add thrust in midfield.
The evenness of the current Heartland competition is amply illustrated by the fact that after only two rounds there are only two unbeaten teams, Mid Canterbury and North Otago. Wanganui could be a little disappointed last week, losing to Mid Canterbury in Wanganui by conceding a converted try with time up on the clock.
North Otago lies in second place with 8 points behind Mid Canterbury (9). In round three this weekend, Buller (4) meets Wairarapa-Bush (6), in Westport, Horowhenua-Kapiti (3) plays Poverty Bay(7), at Waikanae, Mid Canterbury (9) is at home to King Country (4), South Canterbury (5) plays West Coast (5), in Timaru and Thames Valley (5) hosts East Coast (0), in Paeroa.
- Terry O'Neill
North Otago v Wanganui, Oamaru, today, 2.30pm
North Otago: Oscar Pamment, Sala Halaleva, Lemi Masoe, Aleki Morris, Sale Pi'I, Ben Palmer, Cameron Keenan, Samisoni Tongotongo, Manu Taiti, Filipo Veamatahau, Taua Limuloa, Jared Whitburn, Palenapa Mafi, Sam Sturgess, Ralph Darling (captain). Reserves: Sione Palaa, Meli Kolinisau, John Kelly, Matt Duff, Inoke Naufahu, Jason Forrest, Sam Sirell.
Wanganui: Trinity Spooner-Neera, Michael Nabuliwaqe, Poasa Waqanibau, Troy Brown, Samu Kubunavanua, Areta Lama, Lindsay Horrocks, Malakai Volau, Peter Rowe (captain), Bryn Hudson, Jon Smyth, Fraser Hammond, Viki Tofa, Cole Baldwin, Kamipeli Latu. Reserves: Roman Tutauha, Brett Turner, Sam Madams, Ranato Tokoilsomone, William Short, Stephen Perofeta, Ace Malo.