The North Otago under 11 team performed very well at the recent Waimate U11 inter-provincial tournament held on 19 August. The tournament is an annual event held by the Waimate Rugby Football Club. The other 4 teams South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, Otago Metro and Waimate U12 made a formidable list of opposition. Each game consisted of 2 x 15 minute halves. Awards on offer were the tournament trophy for winning team and for individuals there was selection in the tournament invitation team.
The first game for the North Otago team was against Waimate Under 12 where both sides would have seen this as their best chance for a win before taking on the teams from the bigger centre’s. The first half was rusty with a team cohesiveness still a work in progress as was the case in last week’s game against Otago Country. However the team grafted away against an equally committed and able opposition with Harrison Weir getting over the line towards the end of the first half to level the score. The second half ball retention improved further and the backline started to put some passes and runs together. Korbyn Kira and Kiseki Fifita each scored in the second half for the team to come away 15-5 winners. Another good sign in the second half was more recycled ball and tries coming from slightly further out.
Next up was South Canterbury who after containing a rampant starting Otago Metro ground away to finish just a couple of tries down to them. It should be noted the North Otago team were the smallest by some measure. Whilst their powerhouse prop George Asi was used to good effect last week other teams had half a dozen players his size or bigger and in the case of mid Canterbury only a few smaller. North Otago started strongly hustling the bigger South Canterbury team and growing in belief by the minute. An early try to Harrison Weir removed any early fears of a big loss to the larger provincial cousins. A second try and the team knew they were in with a chance of an upset. South Canterbury was far from done and scored 2 tries to tie it up at half time.
The second half North Otago continued to out muscle the bigger forward pack. Lucas Chellow and Liam Ross were amongst those that ran hard at the bigger team always getting well over the advantage line. Sam McCarthy was also very effective at shutting down their backline behind the advantage line. The team kept up the attack with George Asi going over in the corner and a final try by Sam McCarthy the putting the nail in the coffin for a 24 – 12 win making it 2 wins from 2.
Dunedin based Otago Metro was next and the boys’ belief was up. The game started with a very similar full team effort, the boys harrying and hustling Otago Metro throughout. There were opportunities by both teams to score in the first half but none taken and the half time score was 0-0. There was some phenomenal tackling from both teams and by now the boys’ confidence was showing with aggressive running and ongoing phases of recycled ball. Otago Metro managed to score in the first 5 minutes of the second half but the North Otago boys came back to apply ongoing goal line pressure getting agonizingly close to scoring on several occasions, once near the posts, but not quite managing it. A late clearance kick and a kind bounce meant Otago Metro finished with a try under the posts for the win, 12-0. The game could have easily gone the other way but any disappointment was soon forgotton on reflection of the effort the team put in. The boys certainly earnt the respect of the Dunedin boys with Otago Metro requesting another game in 2 weeks time – a chance for North Otago revenge maybe?
Unfortunately the boys faced the largest team and eventual tournament winners last. The big Mid Canterbury team made use of their height and speed to run in several consecutive tries in the first half with the North Otago boys fighting hard but failing to contain the opposition. The boys never gave up with Max Fatafehi bringing down some large lads in full flight right to the final whistle. A late try to Kiseki Fifita gave some reward to the boys’ efforts. Thereafter the team held out the opposition to the final whistle preventing them from scoring again. 56-7 was a disappointing score to finish on but probably a fair reflection of the difference between the 2 teams at that stage of the competition.
4 boys made the tournament team Kiseki Fifita, Max Fatafehi, George Asi and Lucas Chellow. A great effort from a great little team selected from just 6 Saturday club teams covering both u11 and u10 age groups. There were too many notable individual efforts to mention – you can be sure each and every team member stood up and earnt the respect of their coaches, teammates and parents on the sideline.
The final word should go to the tournament organisers for a very well run event, very good refereeing and a great environment for these young teams to test their abilities and develop their game.