Boo-hoo for Mooloo: Shield goes south for the sum­mer

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Joel Ku­las­ing­ham

The Log o’ Wood is head­ing south for the sum­mer.

Otago bat­tled their way to a 23-19 vic­tory over Waikato to lock away the Ran­furly Shield in Dunedin for the first time since 2013, and with it, a home Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nal.

This was Shield rugby at its finest: two pro­vin­cial pow­er­houses bat­tling to end strong sea­sons with a bang on a sunny Satur­day af­ter­noon in Hamil­ton.

The vis­i­tors laid down the chal­lenge early — jump­ing on ev­ery loose ball, cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery turnover — and rushed out to a quick 17-0 lead through three tries in the first 20 min­utes.

Waikato — one of the most en­ter­tain­ing sides this sea­son — re­acted in­stead with a more prag­matic brand of footy, camp­ing in Otago’s 22 for the rest of first half.

The sus­tained pe­riod of pres­sure paid off for the Mooloos as the first half buzzer sounded, with winger Tyler Camp­bell cross­ing over in the cor­ner through a per­fectly con­structed set piece for their sec­ond try.

It was more of the same for Waikato in the sec­ond half, with prop Toby Smith even­tu­ally mak­ing it a one-point game — af­ter Fletcher Smith’s con­ver­sion — with a 50th minute try.

But Otago would earn a cou­ple of penal­ties in quick suc­ces­sion at the other end, ul­ti­mately prov­ing the dif­fer­ence in the game.

Af­ter opt­ing against go­ing for goal mo­ments ear­lier, on a sec­ond Waikato penalty in the kick­ing zone, Otago’s No 10 Josh Ioane — who strikes the ball as purely as any­one in the coun­try — de­cided to take the points and slot­ted a cru­cial three­p­ointer to put Otago ahead 23-19.

And that score would re­main, af­ter a mam­moth sec­ond half de­fen­sive ef­fort from the Blue and Gold, fend­ing off a dogged Mooloos ef­fort to hang on for a fa­mous vic­tory.

“It is, I guess, the old cliche´ , we had to come in and at­tack and we did,” said Otago skip­per Michael Collins af­ter the game. “And then we closed it off at the end to sneak away with a win so, yeah, I’m so proud.”

● Ear­lier, Bay of Plenty ended their Mitre 10 Cup sea­son on a high with a 38-35 win over North­land in Tau­ranga.

But it will be North­land who will play in the Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nals af­ter fin­ish­ing fourth, and will play Waikato — who fin­ished top of the lad­der de­spite yes­ter­day’s nar­row loss — in Hamil­ton next week­end. ● Can­ter­bury claimed a 19-14 vic­tory over Coun­ties Manukau in Pukekohe last night.

The re­sult means Auck­land need just a bonus point from their fi­nal game against North Har­bour to­day to con­firm a home semi­fi­nal and con­firm Can­ter­bury in third.

All Blacks props Nepo Laulala (Coun­ties Manukau) and Joe Moody (Can­ter­bury) re­turned to top rugby in the game.

Otago 23 (M. Scott, J. Dick­son, J. Koroi tries; J. Ioane con, 2 pens) Waikato 19 (J. Iosefa-Scott, T. Camp­bell, B. Sul­li­van tries; F. Smith 2 cons). Half­time: 20-12.

Photo / Photosport

Ju­bi­lant Otago play­ers cel­e­brate tak­ing the Ran­furly Shield off Waikato in Hamil­ton yes­ter­day.

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