Ti­a­tia star act as BOP boost semi hopes

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - MARVIN FRANCE

Bay of Plenty have given their semi­fi­nal hopes a huge shot in the arm with a bonus-point win over Otago in Dunedin.

With both Cham­pi­onship teams among the four chas­ing the three re­main­ing semi spots, there was plenty rid­ing on the re­sult un­der the roof at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium.

But it was the Steam­ers who held their nerve, surg­ing home in the fi­nal 20 min­utes to win 36-28 and jump into the top four on 23 points, with one match re­main­ing.

They can se­cure their pace in the fi­nals with vic­tory over Waikato next week, while Otago, who came into the match in third place, face a Otago 28

must-win game against South­land at home.

Otago held a two-point lead at the break af­ter a back-and-forth open­ing 40 min­utes.

The home team started and fin­ished the half strongly, con­trol­ling pos­ses­sion through hard and di­rect run­ning while stretch­ing the

last-placed de­fence plan.

Full­back Fletcher Smith crossed from close range to open the scor­ing cour­tesy of a su­perb in­side ball from Jono Ruru.

First-five Josh Ioane also pro­duced an equally im­pres­sive cutout pass to set up winger Jona Nareki in the cor­ner af­ter he was de­nied min­utes ear­lier by the TMO.

But sand­wiched be­tween those two tries were plenty of scrappy mo­ments. And Chase Ti­a­tia made them pay through two classy pieces of play.

First, the Bay of Plenty full­back left his de­fender for dead with some daz­zling foot­work be­fore of­fload­ing to Hugh Blake. with an ex­pan­sive game

Af­ter an Otago mis­take from the restart, he then caught the de­fence nap­ping be­hind the ruck for Ter­rence Hepetema to score.

Mis­takes were a com­mon fea­ture from both teams in a tight third quar­ter that saw the Steam­ers snatch a one-point head­ing into the fi­nal 20 min­utes thanks to two Mike De­lany penal­ties.

Then came the cru­cial pe­riod of play. Otago bombed a golden chance to take con­trol when Ruru put Josh Dick­son through a gap, only for the lock’s flick pass to be far too hard for Slade McDowall, who only had to fall over the line.

Bay of Plenty then re­sponded with two tries in five min­utes, Joe Web­ber swoop­ing on a kick af­ter De­lany found Otago short at the back be­fore Ti­a­tia capped an im­pres­sive dis­play, beat­ing three play­ers on his way to the try­line.

Lead­ing by eight, a Matt Fad­des try with six min­utes to go made for a ner­vous fin­ish but re­place­ment half­back Luke Camp­bell sealed the re­sult when he snuck over be­side the posts.

Mean­while, peren­nial strug­glers North­land have given them­selves a chance of mak­ing the Mitre 10 Cup Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nals.

They beat Hawke’s Bay 34-7 their round eight clash Whanga¯rei yes­ter­day.

If they beat Welling­ton, Thurs­day, they will make semi­fi­nals. in in

on the


Ter­rence Hepetema spreads the ball wide for Bay of Plenty.

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