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Last-minute heartbreak for Poverty Bay in Oamaru

Penalty miss the final act of a nail-biting match.

It was heartbreak for Poverty Bay in Oamaru on Saturday, with a missed penalty attempt on the stroke of fulltime in a two-point loss to North Otago.

With the score 12-10 to North Otago, Poverty Bay captain Kelvin Smith took what could have been the game-winning penalty kick from inside the North Otago 22.

Smith, who was taking the penalty because regular kicker Andrew Tauatevalu had left the field injured, was 15 metres from the right touchline. He pulled the ball well left of the uprights after a chaotic final sequence of play.

After 21 phases of Poverty Bay beating against the defence from a five-metre scrum, referee Chris Paul stopped play because a physio had ended up in the middle of the ruck after running on to the field to tend to an injured North Otago player.

The whistle stopped flanker Stefan Destounis from scoring the game-winning try as he reached out to plant the ball while Poverty Bay held a penalty advantage.

Smith's kick was the final act of a game in which Poverty Bay dominated the final quarter but were unable to generate points from their advantage.

Co-coach Miah Nikora said it was a tough loss to swallow. He believed both teams would be disappointed with their finishing.

“There's no way we're blaming it on a missed kick at the end,” he said.

“We created enough opportunities for it not to have come down to a kick at the end.

“Both sides found it hard to put that last pass together, or else the scramble of the defence was so good it shut down the attack.”

While Poverty Bay weren't able to put many points on the scoreboard, Nikora said he was proud of how their defence responded to such a physical team.

“Our defence, to keep them to the points they scored, grew another level.

“We just weren't quite clinical enough on the day to get more points.”

Poverty Bay had made a strong start, opening the scoring with a Tauatevalu penalty after they had worked the ball into an attacking position and forced a yellow card for North Otago prop Tristan Fuli for not rolling away.

The Bay looked to continue their early pressure, and thought Tamanui Hill had scored a fantastic team try after he gathered in a Kelvin Smith chip-and-chase. However, Hill was judged to have been pushed into touch as he crossed the line.

Both teams had strong attacking chances, but handling errors plagued them at the final hurdle.

North Otago fed on Poverty Bay mistakes, marching down the field on the back of four quickfire penalties to score the first try of the game. Poverty Bay had made a poor clearance after they'd worked hard to earn a turnover following an attacking lineout.

Poverty Bay were able to win another turnover but were forced behind their own goal-line for a five-metre scrum.

North Otago No.8 Charles Elton peeled off the back under penalty advantage, with Poverty Bay under pressure, to score between the posts.

After a low-scoring first half, Poverty Bay looked to use the wind to their advantage and opened the second spell strongly.

They had generated a good attack before the ball bobbled out of the ruck and into North Otago's hands, where they were able to mount a counter-attack down the blindside. Fullback Levi Emery broke the line with a nice left-foot step and kicked the ball downfield with no one home. A devilish bounce over the head of Poverty Bay winger Aaron McLelland allowed the chasers to kick the ball on for blindside flanker Aron Einarsson to dive on and score.

Poverty Bay co-coach Tom Cairns said they were “going for gold at the other end”.

“It's rugby I suppose, but that doesn't make it easier. I feel for the boys. They certainly played their hearts out. They emptied the tank.”

Reserve prop Jarryd Broughton was able to respond for Poverty Bay and keep them in the game with 30 minutes to go. At scrum time he was instrumental in earning a penalty from which the Bay kicked for touch. He was the receiver of an intentional overthrow and rumbled over for a try that was converted.

Although Poverty Bay dominated possession and territory for the rest of the game, North Otago held firm to clinch a memorable victory.

Cairns said that in such a low-scoring game, the smallest factors could decide who won.

“They scored when we had a man in the bin. We didn't quite have the numbers there and those little things made a difference.”

Although he was disappointed to have lost, he said he was proud of how the team played and couldn't falter their effort or determination.

“When you're playing the defending Heartland champions, you've got to be up for the fight and our guys were.

“It was an absolute battle.”

North Otago 12 (Charles Elton, Aron Einarsson tries; Josh Phipps con).

Poverty Bay 10 (Jarryd Broughton try; Andrew Tauatevalu con, pen).

HT: 7-3 (North Otago).

NEAR THING: Poverty Bay loose forward Stefan Destounis fends off one West Coast tackler while another grabs him from behind. On Saturday against North Otago, Destounis was in the act of planting the ball for what would have been a match-winning try when the referee stopped play. File picture by Paul Rickard