Meads Cup Final North Otago vs Mid Canterbury
Only one point separated North Otago and Mid Canterbury in the qualifying round of Heartland rugby and it is expected that at the Ashburton Showgrounds this afternoon the margin again could be slight. The historical odds favour Mid Canterbury, for apart from wins in Ashburton in in 2003 and 2006, the previous victory over Mid Canterbury in Ashburton was in 1953, although two matches were drawn in 1957 and 1962.
North Otago coaches Mike Mullins and Troy Looms, have made only one change to the side that beat Wairarapa-Bush last weekend with left winger Chris Talanoa passing a fitness test on Thursday night and consequently Alex Brown returns to the bench. The weather forecast suggests gale force north westerly’s this afternoon and with the grounds east/west layout, goal kicking, could be at a premium. North Otago’s fullback Ed Keohane brought up his century of points last Saturday and Mid Canterbury’s goal kicker, Murray Williams has scored 107 points. Williams did not play against North Otago when North Otago won 19-18 and his presence today could be vital for his side.
Excitement can be a problem leading into a final but Mullins says they’ve tried to control it.
“We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. It’s not a time when you want to introduce anything new. After all we’ve played them once this year. They were without Murray Williams that day and that was probably their downfall. That’s not going to be the case this afternoon. This week we’ve just been going over what we are as a team and then highlighting what we want to stop them doing. The hardest thing was the final selection. We have had 27 or 28 players in the squad training through the season. It’s not easy to tell some guys they’ve missed out.”
The team travelled to Ashburton yesterday afternoon for a final run at the Ashburton Showgrounds.
Statistically there is little between the two sides. Mid Canterbury has played nine, won eight, lost one and scored 260 points (31 tries) and had 156 against (15 tries) . North Otago has played nine games, lost two and scored 264 points (30 tries) and 193 against (25 tries).
The teams are:
North Otago: Ed Keohane Chris Talanoa, Lemi Masoe, J’ndre Liebenberg, Simeli Koniferedi, Ratu Vaituinaruku, Robbie Smith, Samisoni Tongotongo, Matt Duff, Uilisoni Tahitua, Eric Duff, Sale Pi’i, Ralph Darling, TJ Harris, Toetuu Hausia.
Reserves: Palenapa Mafi, Will Henry, Silivencio Havili, Dylan Winter, Manu Taiti, Alex Brown, Adam Anzani-Jones.
Mid Canterbury: Richard Catherwood, Gideon Lambrechts, Dwayne Burrowes, Peni Manumanuniliwa, Murray Williams, Will Mackenzie, Jon Dampney, Tavita Ula, Kody Nordquist, Andrew Smith, Grant Polson, Simon Fleetwood, James Carr, Tokulua Tolu.
Reserves: Kameka Reti, Logan Bonnington, Mark Andrew, Seta Koroitamana, Davie Maw, Nete Caucau, Josh Nonu.
Meads Cup Semi-Final vs. Wairarapa Bush
North Otago registered its seventh successive win when in its Meads Cup semi-final it scored a decisive 48-34 win over Wairarapa-Bush on Saturday. Both sides scored six tries each but it was North Otago’s first half effort that laid the base for its victory. North Otago led 31-12 at halftime but Wairarapa-Bush turned down kickable penalties in an effort to score tries but were successful on only two occasions in the first half. Their endeavour continued in the second half outscoring North Otago, four tries to two but it was a case of too little too late against a strong defence which has been North Otago’s trademark throughout the season.
North Otago half Robbie Smith was in superlative form behind the North Otago pack with his swift decisive clearances, instinctive running and mature reading of the game ranking him as one of the top three halfbacks in Otago. But if there was to be a rock on which Wairarapa-Bush foundered it was fullback Ed Keohane. His positional play was uncanny and his goal kicking in particular was outstanding kicking eight from nine attempts and the miss was from 56 metres out. Keohane supplied the confidence North Otago required especially in the second spell.
The North Otago forwards established domination for the bulk of the first half with aggressive defence and an ability to dominate the breakdown where Matt Duff, Willie Tahitua and Ralph Darling, playing his fiftieth game for North Otago stood out. In the tight Eric Duff was simply Eric Duff doing what he’s done in game after game this season.
Wairarapa-Bush came to play. Byron Karaitiana and Titapu Pairama-Lewington were powerful in midfield and left winger Nathan Hunt showed plenty of pace on the left wing while in the forwards tighthead prop Finbarr Kerr-Newell and Richard Puddy were honest toilers and John Van Vliet and James Goodger were avaricious loosies.
North Otago co coach, Mike Mullins believed it was North Otago’s ability to take opportunities that brought it home.
“We gave ourselves opportunities to get this home semi-final and now we’re into the final. Where it is we don’t care. We stuck at it in the second half even though we were outscored but hey it’s a good result for the boys. We said we had to start well which is something we haven’t been doing this campaign so getting those points early through some individual brilliance helped us today. Wairarapa-Bush came back strongly but they were chasing the game and we’d done enough as it proved. We let in some soft tries in the second spell but we’re in a final and anything can happen.”
Keohane kicked his first penalty in the 4th minute and fourteen minutes later North Otago finally broke the opposition defence. Winger Alex Brown and first five eighth Ratu Vaituinaruku broke 60 metre downfield and from the breakdown lock Sale Pi’i crashed over for Keohane to convert. Four minutes later North Otago extended its lead to 17-0 when flanker Matt Duff scored for Keohane to add the conversion.
A break by midfielder Byron Karaitiana opened up North Otago and Wairarapa-Bush captain and flanker Johan Van Vliet touched down for Glen Walters to convert. Sustained attack from North Otago four minutes later put second five eighth J’ndre Liebenberg across for North Otago’s third try which Keohane duly converted. Minutes later North Otago was in again when halfback Smith scored. Keohane’s conversion giving North Otago a 31-7 lead eight minutes before halftime. Wairarapa-Bush reduced the deficit a minute from halftime when hooker Richard Puddy burrowed over for a try to make it 31-12 at halftime.
Karaitiana scored the first of his two tries in the 51st minute with Walter’s conversion reducing the deficit to twelve points. Three minutes later North Otago flanker Uilisoni Tahitua broke the line on halfway and sent Vaituinaruku away for a try to extend North Otago’s lead to 38-19. A Keohane penalty extended this to 41-19 before replacement hooker, Ben Pereira scored from a lineout for Wairarapa-Bush. A Robbie Smith break from 60 metres out put winger Simeli Koniferedi over for North Otago’s next try with Keohane extending North Otago’s lead to 48-24 before late tries to Karaitiana and Richard Puddy took Wairarapa Bush into the thirties.
In the other Meads Cup semi-final Mid Canterbury scored a converted try in injury time to beat West Coast 28-25 in Ashburton while in the Lochore Cup semi-finals, Buller beat Wanganui, 28-12 and South Canterbury will host the final with a 14-8 win over Thames Valley.
Meads Cup Semi Final – 19 October 2013
The playing of semi-finals and finals was introduced to divisional rugby in 1997. Since then North Otago has featured in sixteen of the seventeen playoffs, going on to the finals on seven occasions, and winning four of the those finals.
Saturday’s semi-final between North Otago and Wairarapa Bush will be the third that the two unions have met in. Wairarapa Bush won the first in 2006, 25-19, and North Otago took the second, 30-13 in 2007.
North Otago rugby was beginning its resurrection in 1997 under Greg Shipton and Peter Cook and to the joy of local supporters, who had stuck with their team in over a decade and a half out in the rugby desert, North Otago opened its 1997 campaign with a win over South Canterbury, 20-17, winning the Hanan Shield for the first time in two decades. The side then won its next six games an unheard of run until it lost 8-40 to Horowhenua Kapiti. Horowhenua Kapiti came south for the semi-final and the cagey Shipton and Cook produced a side which bolted home 37-7 to go through to the final. North Otago scored four tries that day. Chris Finch converted all four tries and added three penalties.
Horowhenua-Kapiti had its revenge in the 1998 semi-final defeating North Otago, 36-26 with James Jowsey and Nathan Cunningham scoring tries for North Otago. Nineteen ninety nine saw North Otago miss out in the semi-finals but the following year under Glen Moore North Otago thrashed Poverty Bay, 53-32 with Ross Hay, Pila Fifita, Ali Fanene, Toetu Palamo and Nathan Archibald scoring tries. Simon Porter added the rest with five conversions and six penalties.
The following year Poverty Bay was again put to the sword, 43-20 in the semi-final with Pila Fifita (4), Matt Saunders, Ross Hay and Hotili Asi scoring tries and Porter converted three of the tries with Justin Rawcliffe converting a try as well.
2002 was to prove a special year for North Otago for it not only won its semi-final in third division but it went on to win the final and earn promotion to the second division. In that semi-final North Otago had its biggest win ever over South Canterbury with a 58-10 victory. Fepi Tatafu (2), Pila Fifita (2), Hotili Asi(2),Simon Porter, Toetu Palamo and Ryan McCarthy scoring tries with Porter adding three conversions and four penalties.
North Otago spent the next three years in second division and made the semi-finals on each occasion. Luke Herden and Hotili Asi scored tries and Brett Williams converted one of the tries and kicked two penalties as Hawkes Bay took the game 24-18 in 2003.
The following year, 2004, North Otago travelled to Nelson to play Nelson Bays in the semi-final losing 15-32 with Watisoni Lotawa and Pila Fifita scoring tries and Ryan Bambry adding a conversion and a penalty.
The next season,2005, saw North Otago almost bring off a major upset, when the presence of a TMO would probably have given North Otago a 16-15 win. As it was Scott Mayhew’s try was disallowed giving Hawkes Bay a 15-11 win.
More changes to the competition structure saw the current format introduced the following year. 2006 saw North Otago meet Wairarapa-Bush in the semi-finals and despite tries to Faaitu Tuamoheloa, Ross Hay and Karne Kaufana and two conversion from Alex Davies, Wairarapa-Bush won, 25-19.
Wairarapa-Bush came south in 2007 for its semi-final against North Otago which moved through to the Meads Cup final with a 30-13 win. Stephen Sasagi(2) and Mike Mavor scored tries and Glenn Dickson kicked three conversions and three penalties.
North Otago could not push on to the finals in 2008 with Mid Canterbury taking the honours in the semi-final in Ashburton, 38-24 with Mavor, Jone Paumau, Pale Tuilagi and current coach, Mike Mullins scoring tries and Tuilagi kicking two conversions.
Poor form saw North Otago qualify for the Lochore Cup playoffs in 2009 and in Oamaru beat King Country, 31-27 with Jason Forrest scoring a try and Daniel Waenga from Hawkes Bay scoring two tries and kicking two conversions plus adding four penalty goals.
Back in the Meads Cup semi-finals in 2010 North Otago dealt to Mid Canterbury, 40-24 in Oamaru with Lemi Masoe and Luke Herden scoring two tries each and Tuamoheloa, one, with Ben Patston converting three tries and kicking three penalties.
2011 and 2012 saw East Coast beat North Otago in the Meads Cup semi-finals. In 2011 in Oamaru despite tries from Tuamoheloa and Whiria Meltzer scoring and Patston kicking two conversions and a penalty East Coast took the honours, 23-17. East Coast in Ruatoria in 2012 repeated the dose with a 26-15 win with Tale Fagasoaia and Jack Wolfreys scoring North Otago’s tries with Billy Guyton kicking a conversion and a penalty.
Who knows what 2013 will bring?