Tiatia star act as BOP boost semi hopes
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
Terrence Hepetema spreads the ball wide for Bay of Plenty.