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Match Report from

The Otago Country Premiers went down 47-12 to North Otago in their game played at Wanaka.

The North Otago side started strongly, scoring two converted tries inside the first ten minutes. Fullback Josh Buchan and flanker Junior Fifita with the tries. Both converted by the boot of Dan Lewis. The North Otago backs found space out wide, kept the ball alive with some slick offloads and split the Country defence.

The Otago Country side fought their way back into the game after their poor start and began to make metres and string phases together. When they kept the ball tight, they gained momentum and pressured North Otago into giving away penalties.

Southland import Mika Mafi was sin binned for a head high tackle and Country seized the opportunity. The Country line out was strong and a forward drive allowed them to attack the Old Golds line.

Halfback Jared Edwards found space around the ruck and dotted down for the try. North Otago countered straight back, Buchan grabbed his second of the day. Converted by Lewis. From the kickoff, Country held onto the ball and after a clean break by blindside Daniel Hurring, flanker Aidan Winter in his 50th appearance for Otago Country crossed the line. Angus Gibb converted to bring the score to 21-12 at halftime. Otago Country had dominated set piece and made solid metres up front. North Otago looked far more dangerous out wide.

The second half belonged to North Otago. They found their mojo at lineout time and held possession for the majority of the half. Their forwards ran strongly at the defence and made inroads. The ball skills and handling of the North Otago side was very impressive, it didn’t matter what number was on their back, they all had tricks up their sleeves. The Otago Country defence held strong and never gave an inch for long periods in the second half until North Otago emptied the bench. Their bench made a tremendous impact on the game. They added flair, energy and composure to break down the committed Country defence and take the game beyond reach. Otago Country’s stronghold at lineout time was cancelled out, they didn’t win one of their own in the second half.

North Otago scored two tries in the last ten minutes to blow the score out somewhat. The Old Golds scored four second half tries to Jonny Masters, Matthew Vocea, Sefo Maake and Mika Mafi.
Mafi had a strong game for the North Otago side. He carried well and showed all his experience from the higher level that he has been exposed to. Centre Sala Halelova also had a strong game. He ran well in the backline and put in some crunching hits. Fullback Josh Buchan was a handful with ball in hand. He danced his way around several defenders when he was given time and space to do it. His kicking game was very strong also. Veteran Ralph Darling in his 84th game for North Otago also played well.

Country halfback Jared Edwards once again proved his worth for his side. His abrasive nature and quick thinking kept his pack going forward and his tactical kicking put pressure on the North Otago side. Flankers Daniel Hurring and Aidan Winter were worth their weight in gold. They never took a backward step and put their bodies on the line against much bigger opposition. Captain Tim O’Neill also had a strong game. Ollie McLelland added some much needed aggression and passion off the bench.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Otago Country side. They have work to do before their next game in three weeks but there were still plenty of positives to take out of this game. Their tenacious defence and their forward play were impressive and this will be key for them going forward. This team has a great atmosphere which will carry them forward in the weeks to come.

North Otago 47 (Josh Buchan x2, Jonny Masters, Junior Fifita, Matthew Vocea, Sefo Maake, Mika Mafi tries; Buchan 3 cons, Dan Lewis 3 cons)
beat Otago Country 12 (Aidan Winter, Jared Edwards tries; Angus Gibb 1 con)
HT 21-12

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