Otago Daily Times

Heart­break for Otago

RUGBY

- STEVE HEP­BURN BLACK FERNS’ DRAW PU­MAS CAN IM­PROVE

AH well, it was prob­a­bly go­ing to be mean­ing­less any­way.

Otago lost its Mitre 10 Cup Championsh­ip semi­fi­nal 32­19 to North­land last night at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium.

In a match with plenty of en­deav­our and not much ac­cu­racy from ei­ther team, North­land just did enough to win the game.

The home side never reached full gear at any stage of the game and fell apart in the fi­nal min­utes.

The he­si­tancy ,which has been there for Otago in its past two matches, was clear for all to see.

The passes did not quite stick, it was well beaten at the break­down and there were too many sloppy er­rors.

The home team was in front 19­18 af­ter Josh Ioane put Sio Tomkin­son in un­der the bar just af­ter the hour mark but Otago un­rav­elled in the dy­ing min­utes.

Firstly, North­land half­back Sam Nock scored, af­ter a poor piece of tack­ling from Otago, and then right at the death re­place­ment loose for­ward Matt Matich went over.

Otago was dis­traught at the loss and, al­though it could not be faulted for ef­fort, its ex­e­cu­tion was off and there was a lack of com­bi­na­tion.

North­land was strong at the break­down al­though there was plenty of play­ing the man rather than the ball.

It grabbed a fair share of turnovers but, when Otago did string some turnovers to­gether, it did look dan­ger­ous.

The is­sue was those oac­ca­sions were few.

Best for Otago were prop Josh Hoh­neck, lock Jack Re­gan and winger Jona Nareki.

The side will now be stuck in the Championsh­ip for an­other year al­though there is talk the whole com­pe­ti­tion struc­ture is go­ing to change.

Otago was not at the races in the first 20 min­utes of the match.

It failed to get any de­cent con­ti­nu­ity in its game and dis­ci­pline went out the win­dow.

Af­ter Ioane missed a handy penalty — 40m out and straight in front — North­land scored a soft try.

The ball went wide and winger Jone Macilai found some space.

He then simply bumped off Otago full­back Michael Collins, threw a dummy which ev­ery­one bought ,and can­tered over to score.

Johnny Cooper then added a penalty five min­utes later and North­land had a 10­point lead.

Otago though came back into the match in the sec­ond quar­ter as it won more ball. Even­tu­ally the pres­sure told. Al­though North­land man­aged to force a turnover un­der the shadow of its posts it mucked up the clear­ance when a kick was charged down.

The ball fell into the hands of Nareki and the livewire winger beat three North­land

Jor­dan cross­ing . . . Otago half­back Kane Ham­ming­ton is too late to stop North­land cap­tain Jor­dan Olsen from scor­ing dur­ing the teams’ Mitre 10 Cup Championsh­ip semi­fi­nal at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium last night. Be­low: North­land play­ers (from left) Sam Nock, Tom Robin­son, Rene Ranger, Matt Wright (back to cam­era) and Sam Caird (back to cam­era) cel­e­brate af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle. de­fend­ers to snip over and score.

It was an op­por­tune time for Nareki to score his first try of the sea­son.

And then, af­ter the half­time hooter went, Otago had a 5m li­ne­out from the line.

But it found no re­ward in the drive from the li­ne­out.

The ball went out the back­line and cen­tre Josh Timu shrugged off two tack­lers and car­ried two North­land de­fend­ers over the line to score.

Ioane, who was strug­gling with the boot, man­aged to land the handy con­ver­sion to give Otago the half­time 12­10 lead.

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 ?? PHO­TOS: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON ??
PHO­TOS: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON
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