North Otago will meet North Otago in a vital final qualifying game for North Otago. North Otago would go into this game at its peril if it considers Horowhenua-Kapiti an easy opponent considering its lying second last in the competition. Horowhenua-Kapiti’s tally hides its real form. Of the seven games played Horowhenua-Kapiti has failed to earn bonus points on only one occasion, that against South Canterbury when it was beaten, 30-13. Horowhenua-Kapiti was narrowly defeated by Wanganui (28-24), Buller(19-15), Wairarapa-Bush (22-15), Mid Canterbury (13-9) and East Coast (25-24) with its sole win being over King Country (19-18). North Otago goes into the game knowing that it must get maximum points and then hope that either Mid Canterbury or Wairarapa-Bush are beaten.
North Otago which was affiliated to the NZRU in 1927 and Horowhenua which was affiliated in 1893 have met on only 26 occasions with the win/loss ratio favouring Horowhenua, which became Horowhenua-Kapiti in 1997, by fifteen wins to eleven for North Otago.
The first game between the two Unions was played in 1955 in Levin with Horowhenua taking the honours, 13-12 with “Pop” Cowie scoring two tries and Alistair Robinson and Fred O’Brien, one each. The team that day was Terry Perriam, Robinson, Cowie, Jock Hamilton, Murray McCulloch, Laurie Tempero, O’Brien, Jim Pringle, Bill Nightingale, Graeme McCone, Frank Kippenberger, Tony McMullan, Les Adams, Brian Collett and Keith Nuttall.
The two sides did not meet again until 1960 when at the Oamaru Showgrounds North Otago made it two in a row with 9-3 win courtesy of three penalty goals by Reg Direen. The North Otago side that day was Ralph Porter, Barry Rooney, Rob Russell, Doug Perriam, Max Eckhold, Terry O’Neill, Ken McGregor, Neville McNee, Doug Grant, Tony Brady, Neville Frewen, Reg Direen, Bill Simpson, Brian Lewis and Dave Finlay.
The two sides did not meet again for two decades when in Levin Horowhenua won 25-15. The sides did not meet again until 1984 when North Otago levelled the series with a 16-13 win when fullback Ross Wilson with a try and three penalties scored all North Otago’s points.
Horowhenua dominated the next decade winning all ten games before North Otago had success in 1996 in Levin with a 41-40 win with tries going to John Newlands, Billy Laing, Ross Skinner plus a penalty try while import Jason Bird added three conversions and five penalties.
1997 saw the two sides meet twice. In the final game of the round with North Otago assured of a place in the division three semi-finals, North Otago coaches Greg Shipton and Peter Cook decided, unbeknown to most, named a team giving most of the bench players starting positions. Horowhenua-Kapiti bolted home 40-8 with North Otago managing only try to Mark Cook and a penalty to Ray Gutsell.
Come semi-finals the following Saturday North Otago raced away to a 37-7 win giving them a place in the final against Marlborough. The rejuvenated North Otago side produced tries to Andrew Watherston, Aaron Johnston, Ross Skinner and John Talanoa with Chris Finch converting all four tries and adding three penalties.
1998 saw North Otago defeat Horowhenua-Kapiti, 34-27 in the qualifying round but was found wanting in the semi-final losing 26-36 with James Jowsey and Nathan Cunningham scoring tries. Finch added a conversion, three penalties and a dropped goal with Cunningham kicking a conversion. Horowhenua-Kapiti went on to lose to Mid Canterbury in the Third Division final, 13-18.
Horowhenua-Kapiti won again in Levin in 1999, 34-16 but that was the last time that the sided tasted success over North Otago. Since 2000 (35-10), 2001 (65-14), 2002 (40-0), 2006 (59-23), 2009 (32-11) and 2011 (61-15) North Otago has held sway.