King Country has secured the Lochore Cup after beating North Otago 47-34 in Te Kuiti this afternoon.
The Rams scored four times in the second half to turn around a shaky score line to be dominant victors after years and years of waiting for a shot at silverware.
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James Hemara scored to put King Country into an early lead. Ben Palmer couldn’t answer back for North Otago after a penalty was awarded for a high tackle. Joe Pewaiti is a midfielder with some big wraps, and his injection saw King Country charge downfield again.
Hemara scored his second in the corner and after Zayn Tipping’s conversion was successful, King Country was out to a 12-0 lead.
North Otago couldn’t retain possession long enough to build solid phases of attack together. Tipping slotted a penalty to extend King Country’s lead.
Palmer got North Otago on the board with three points, a good reward for a good few minutes of play that ended in a penalty. Momentum shifted completely into North Otago’s favour, confusion in defense led to a breakaway, and Lemi Masoe scored easily.
Palmer converted, and it was 15-10 suddenly.
A brilliantly executed set play from the scrum saw Iliesa Vatuva shoot down the line and score for King Country, wrestling back the upper hand.
The struggle continued, and North Otago scored on the full time siren thanks to their halfback Inoke Naufahu.
King Country held a slim lead at halftime 20-17.
Vatuva went in to score again, showing his pace from a standing start and fending off the last defender, putting King Country out to an 8-point lead.
Palmer answered for North Otago with a penalty.
Naufahu scored his second, stepping his way past the last defender after powerful through an additional three, touching the ball down to equal the scores. Palmer converted to give North Otago their first lead of the match 27-25.
Tipping kicked King Country back in the lead after North Otago were penalized trying to maintain control.
A brain explosion from the North Otago fullback nearly cost his side a try. Rob Sherson took the ball from the back of the scrum and powered over for a try to extend King Country’s lead.
Sherson was sent to the bin moments later for a high tackle.
With ten minutes to go, King Country held a slim lead 33-27 but North Otago were throwing everything at the hosts. Manuele Alofa sealed the deal for King Country, powering to the line with two men holding on to score.
Tipping converted, and in the process, notched 100 points for the season.
Sherson made up for his time on the sidelines, scoring his second try, securing the Lochore Cup for King Country.
At a glance:
King Country 47 (James Hemara 2, Iiesa Vatuva 2, Rob Sherson 2, Manuele Alofa, Zayn Tipping 4 con, 2 pen)
North Otago 34 (Lemi Masoe, Inoke Naufahu 2, Ben Palmer 4 con, 3 pen)