Otago stun Taranaki in extra time

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Saturday, August 29, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Play went three minutes after the full-time hooter as Otago mounted 19 phases of mauling, driving play, eschewing the chance to attempt a dropped goal to win, and having replacement halfback Kaide Whiting get across the line to score the winning try.

Some of the quality demonstrated defied belief in the wet but there will be disappointment in Taranaki that last year's ITM Cup champions couldn't put Championship side Otago away in their crossover game.

The disappointment will be compounded when recalling they were 22-6 up at halftime.

It was Otago's mauling play that got them back in the game as it produced their four bonus point tries.

Home first five-eighths and All Black Beauden Barrett's class shone through the miserably wet conditions as rain fell throughout but ultimately it wasn't enough to secure the win. A break, from set play, saw him break the Otago line with ease, and speed, to find wing Jackson Ormond in support to take his pass for the opening try in the 12th minute.

With three minutes left in the first half, he sized up his options perfectly to slip a kick across field where right wing Codey Rei was waiting in clear space to secure the ball and score.

But for all his quality, it was the other members of the side who created a superb team try after No.8 Iopu Iopu-Aso picked up an Otago charge down of a kick by second five-eighth Charlie Ngatai that rebounded off an Otago player and into Iopu-Aso's hands. Racing ahead he sent Ormond flying down the left touchline. Link passes between flanker Mitchell Crosswell and centre Seta Taimanavalu carried the attack forward with second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai on hand to take the pass then in-pass and set up the player who started it, Iopu-Aso, for the try.

It would have been outstanding in perfect conditions, but its quality was magnified in the wet.

Play tightened up in the second half as Otago looked to stay in the game and in the 52nd minute the applied pressure through a rolling maul from a lineout and it was replacement forward Naulia Dawai who scored.

And eight minutes later they repeated the dose after opting for a lineout instead of a shot at goal. Dawai was on the end of the maul again to score his second and with first five-eighths Fletcher Smith landing the conversion the margin was back to two points at 20-22.

That resulted in a significant change of personnel which bore immediate reward as another piece of Barrett class in a sideline break which saw him scissor pass with lock Blade Thomson. While the ball slithered around in the wet, it was Taranaki who speculated the ball towards the goal-line and from the resulting pressure, the ball was moved wide where replacement wing Sean Wainui crossed with 15 minutes left.

However, Otago's substitutes weren't without their own value and after more mauling play it was replacement forward Aki Seiuli who was fed a lovely short pass from replacement halfback Kaide Whiting to slide over the goal-line for a try which, with Peter Breen's conversion, levelled the scores 27-27 with five minutes left.

Scorers: Taranaki 27 (Jackson Ormond, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Codey Rei, Sean Wainui tries; Rei 2 con, pen) Otago 34 (Naulia Dawai 2, Aki Seiuli, Kaide Whiting tries; Fletcher Smith 2 con, 2 pen; Peter Breen 2 con). HT: 22-6