27th September 2014
NORTH OTAGO 22 v 19 SOUTH CANTERBURY
North Otago produced its most impressive performance of the season when it toppled second-placed South Canterbury on Saturday to build up its hopes for the last two rounds of the competition.
North Otago took the game to its northern neighbour with aggressive attacking play and a dedicated defensive display at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Captain Josh Clark reproduced the form he had against Poverty Bay in the second game of the season.
He took valuable lineout ball, he was powerful with the ball in hand and he marshalled his troops with aplomb.
Up front, Clark was complemented by hooker Ralph Darling, with his instinctive ability to link with his supporting backs, redoubtable props Rob Mafileo and Palenapa Mafi, and later in the game by Hayden Tisdall and Kilioni Taufa as the bodies wore out.
Locks Sale Pi’i and Sione Teu were an admirable pairing, both powerful on defence and with the ball in hand, while No 8 Samisoni Tongotongo put real pressure on the South Canterbury defence.
Halfback Robbie Smith had his best game of the season, and in midfield, the Sauileoge brothers, Ekeroma and Tenina, ruled supreme. Their spot tackling was deadly efficient, and Tenina scored a superb individual try.
Wingers Simeli Koniferedi and Joe Marston were aggressive workhorses while Brad McKenzie and, in the second half, Chris Perry were accomplished at the back.
The pick of the South Canterbury forwards were hooker Telusa Latu, lock Josateki Veikune and flanker Sam Vea, while halfback Sekope Maea was always probing.
Miles Medlicott and Paula Fifita were ever-present dangers in midfield, and Jared Trevathan was more than useful at the back.
North Otago took an early lead when Ben Palmer kicked a penalty.
Then, from a scrum 5m inside South Canterbury territory, Tenina Sauileoge carved up the defence and raced 40m to score a brilliant individual try.
Fifteen minutes from halftime, the Old Golds struck again.
They hammered the opposition line and were awarded a penalty 5m in front of the posts.
Pi’i grabbed the ball, tapped and drove over for a try, which Palmer converted to give North Otago a confidence-boosting 17-0 lead.
South Canterbury scored its first try 10 minutes before halftime when, after two 5m scrums, No 8 Kali Latu drove over for an unconverted try.
North Otago extended its lead to 22-5 when Ekeroma Sefo broke deep into opposition territory, and the ball was spun left to replacement lock Don Lolo for the try.
South Canterbury threw everything at North Otago in the final quarter, as Vea and Nick Strachan scored tries to narrow the score to 22-19, but a gallant North Otago side survived a final dramatic six minutes of play.
Buller remained unbeaten in the Heartland Championship after holding out Horowhenua-Kapiti 19-12.
Mid Canterbury picked up a vital five points, thumping East Coast 67-12.
Poverty Bay remained in fourth place with a 35-29 win over King Country.
Wairarapa-Bush had its first win of the season, beatingThames Valley 18-16, and West Coast also broke its duck, beating Wanganui 23-17.
The scoresNorth Otago 22
Tenina Sauileoge, Sale Pi’i, Don Lolo tries; Ben Palmer 2 con, pen
South Canterbury 19
Kali Latu, Sam Vea, Nick Strachan tries; Jared Trevathan 2 con
Halftime: North Otago 17-5.
– Terry O’Neill http://www.odt.co.nz/