21 v 31
Otago gave themselves every chance of claiming a Championship semi-finals berth with a hard-earned 31-21 bonus point win over Northland at Whangarei on Wednesday.
In a game that featured both teams moving the ball around from the outset, it was Otago who struck first after impressive build-up work and with good ball provided consistently by halfback Josh Renton, it was no surprise when first five-eighths Peter Breen stepped his way over the advantage line in the Northland 22m area.
That set up quick rucked ball which was moved left and then waiting as a stand-off tighthead prop Scott Manson set sail through the defence to get low to drive over the line to score in the 18th minute.
More Otago pressure went close to producing a second try courtesy of forward drives but the points finally came courtesy of a penalty goal to Breen.
That stirred the fire in the Taniwha and they stormed into Otago’s 22m area but a prospectively attacking lineout saw a throw-in called for not straight and from the scrum Northland were penalized and Otago cleared.
After extending their 8-0 halftime lead with another penalty goal in the 45th minute, Otago made a key play from a midfield scrum when No.8 Paul Grant ran the ball, linked inside with hard-working flanker Lee Allan, who was on hand as he was all night.
Allan then threw a long pass back to Breen and when second five-eighths Tei Walden worked a dummy reverse pass with centre Jayden Spence, Northland took it and space was created on the left for wing Matt Faddes to race in for the try to take Otago to a 16-0 lead.
Northland captain and centre Rene Ranger decided enough was enough and after a barn-storming run through the midfield Northland got their dander up and with second five-eighths Viliami Tahitu’a doing some wreckage work of his own with the ball in hand they beg an to test Otago.
And in the 55th minute after a series of drives at the line it was replacement halfback Sonetane Takulua was in space to score under the posts.
Two minutes later two Otago mistakes occurred in their 22m area, one a chargedown of a Breen kick and a passing mistake by halfback Josh Renton turned the ball over and it was prop Matt Wright drove over to score.
But the introduction of some of Otago’s heavy artillery had the desired effect with the competition’s leading points scorer Hayden Parker landing a penalty goal almost immediately and then moments later a storming run by captain Grant found wide open space and it was a simple run down the sideline for centre Jayden Spence to score and extend the lead to 24-14.
However, the home team were not prepared to lie down and a succession of penalties in Otago’s 22m area saw the scrum option taken and it was replacement prop Rob Abel who brought reward for the side.
But a fatal mistake was made by Ranger when, five metres from his own line, he tapped a penalty, and knocked it on with Otago winning a penalty and from the lineout option TJ Ioane drove over in the lineout maul to score the bonus point try.
Northland 21 (Sonetane Takulua, Ross Wright, Robbie Abel tries; Daniel Hawkins 3 con)
Otago 31 (Scott Manson, Matt Faddes, Jayden Spence, TJ Ioane tries; Peter Breen 2 pen; Hayden Park pen, con).
Source : http://www.itmcup.co.nz/