South Canty in second spot
A scintillating first half saw South Canterbury beat North Otago 52-37, in Oamaru on Saturday, to storm to second on the Heartland table.
South Canterbury had scored five tries by halftime, up 34-6, and added another two in the second to secure an excellent victory.
They did, however, let in three soft ones earlier in the second half to allow North Otago to close the gap to 14 points to have a sniff.
However, a wobbly drop goal, that fell over the crossbar, from replacement first five Willie Wright just before fulltime made sure of the win.
It is the first time South Canterbury had notched up a half century of points against their neighbours since 1991.
The bonus point win lifted South Canterbury to within two points of the unbeaten Wanganui side, who dispatched Wairarapa Bush 26-19 to leave them third.
Elsewhere, East Coast upset Mid Canterbury 20-13 in Ashburton while Horowhenua Kapiti recorded their first win 35-19 over Thames Valley.
In Westport, Buller beat King Country 31-19 while Poverty Bay got past West Coast 31-13.
In Oamaru the game was more like "helter-skelter" sevens going end to end, with some dodgy tackling from both sides.
In the end South Canterbury were the better side, dominating the set pieces and scoring some excellent long-range tries.
In the first half the South Canterbury pack dominated the breakdown, turning over ball, and the backs made the most of their opportunities.
No 6 Sam Vea was an outstanding ball carrier, while captain Matt Fetu had an excellent game at prop.
Eric Smith defied his age with another great performance at seven and was an excellent ball winner at the back of the lineout.
No 8 Joeli Kotobolavu also had a strong game and capped it off with a brace of tries, with great supporting work.
South Canterbury second five Fa'aitu Tuamoheloa was outstanding, notching up his 101st first class game against his old province.
The 32-year-old sliced through North Otago several times and kept them guessing, distributing the ball well and could well be back in the Heartland XV with selector Earl Kirton on the sideline.
Fullback Liam Edwards notched up 24 points, including two tries, by using his pace well but also blew one when he was too casual in placing it.
Halfback Sekope Maea was also back to his probing best with some good runs.
South Canterbury's other try scorers where wing Tenari Saumani, who showed some nicer touches before also going off injured just before the break, while centre Steve Burt used his strength to get the ball over with a couple of defenders hanging on.
Lock Luke Brice showed some silky skills in charging down a clearing kick and then scooping it up to score with no North Otago defenders in sight.
For North Otago, No 8 Tony Lamborn had a strong game while centre Matt Faddes came into his own in the second half.
South Canterbury lost Taranaki loan player Rick McKenna early in the first half after he was knocked out attempting a tackle and his season is up in the air.
South Canterbury coach Chester Scott was more than happy to bank five points and land what could be a big blow to North Otago who face high-flying Wanganui and Wairarapa Bush in the next two weeks.
"I'm not really sure what to say, the attack was great but obviously some holes in defence. The boys came away with the points, including a bonus, which is never easy against North Otago."
North Otago coach Barry Matthews was nowhere to be seen after the game, which spoke volumes of how he thought his side probably played.
South Canterbury 52 (Joeli Kotobolavu 2, Liam Edwards 2, Tenari Saumani, Steve Burt, Luke Brice try; Edwards 2 pen, 4 con; Willie Wright dg) North Otago 37 (Rowan McKenzie, Matt Faddes, Rangi Hepe, Tony Lamborn, Tai Aholelei try; Aholelei 2 pen, 3 con). Halftime: 34-6.
- The Timaru Herald