In a low scoring game played in wet conditions overhead but on a good surface North Otago and King Country fought out, often literally, a four all draw, with both side kicking penalties in both halves. The game burst into fisticuffs early in the first half but North Otago immediately indicated to the opposition that there would be no tugging of the forelock in this game. Consequently North Otago lost hooker Sione Vea and tighthead prop Dan Towler while King Country lost loosehead prop Carl Carmichael for ten minutes, a situation which required both teams to run on substitute players for any scrums which upset the tempo of the game. Down to thirteen men North otago produced a gutsy defensive effort which was not lost of coach, Barry Stevens.
“We’d talked about mental toughness after last weekend’s effort and I think we stood up and showed a lot of that today. It’s disappointing not to come away with a win but we knew the game was going to be a tough one.”
North Otago had a broken preparation to the game. In the final light run on the morning first five eighth Josh Casey, with a calf strain just hours before the game, and during the game centre Shae Tucker came off with a hip injury, while one of the replacements, Kayne Middleton had to leave the field in the second half after colliding with another North Otago player. As a result Tyron Davies was rushed into first five eighth to replace Casey and Jason Forrest, the North otago fitness trainer, finished up taking the field in the second half at fullback. The nature of the game saw all forward reserves take the paddock such was the physical intensity of the game and in doing so Samisoni Tongotongo played his fiftieth game for North Otago.
Probably the feature of the game was the defence of both sides according to Stevens.
“Robbie Smith and Lemi Masoe were quite outstanding and Davies shoved into the playing fifteen also had a fine game. You’ve got to look at the conditions on the day. It was very, wet and very slippery and our inside back combination worked very well today. Smith showed his experience and was cool and calm under the conditions and Masoe’s experience was put to great use on defence or with the ball in hand. Defensively the forwards stood up. They were hard and Sione Misiloi, Sione Vea and Filipo Veamatahau all stood out.”
King Country halfback Zayn Tipping, kicked a penalty in the second minute and Davies replied in the thirty fifth minute to make it 2-2 at halftime. Tipping put his side out to 4-2 lead four minutes into the second half and the next thirty six minutes were just hard slog for both sides, before in the thirty ninth minute Davies kicked his second penalty to level the score. Davies had actually created the position when he intelligently grubber kicked deep inside King Country territory where the kick though was knocked on by King Country just outside its twenty two, and from the scrum King Country was penalised and Davies’ kick never looked like missing.
King Country had a powerful midfield in John Koko and Stephen Turner, but the North Otago loose forwards dominated King Country. halfback Zayn Tipping while up front centurion Aarin Dunstar, was strong along with number eight Rob Sherson and flanker Sam Mason.
North Otago 4 (Tyron Davies 2 pen), King Country 4 (Zayn Tipping 2 pen) HT: 2-2.
Wanganui remains unbeaten with a 60-14 win over Thames Valley which drops to eleventh place. South Canterbury after being held to a 16 all draw at halftime eased away to a 36-24 win in Timaru, Buller after trailing Wairarapa-Bush at halftime,1 6-22, allowed the opposition only a penalty in the second half to win 26-24, Mid Canterbury after leading East Coast, 38-6 at halftime careered away to a 76-22 victory in Ruatoria. Poverty Bay lying in eighth place beat West Coast, 62-28.