Otago hold off brave Northland
Wednesday, August 31, 2016 allblacks.com Getty Images
It looked like Northland were in for a long night when dynamic loose forward Naulia Dawai pounced on a misplaced kick from first five-eighth Fletcher Smith and broke two tackles to make it 5-0 after just five minutes.
But this Northland side is a more resilient model to the 2015 side which conceded 54 points against Otago and fought their way back. With former Otago pivot Peter Breen playing the general, Northland took points when on offer from the tee and scored a great opportunist try to number eight Matt Matich to make it 11-11 after 30 minutes. In a dagger blow to Northland, Otago scored on the stroke of halftime through wing Jack Wilson to stretch their lead to 19-11.
Peter Breen was in on the action early in the second half when a great pop ball put the Taniwha on attack before some great work at the breakdown led to a try by hard running lock Shane Neville.
As was the theme of the night, Northland wouldn’t give up and scored a late try when wing Jone Macilai went over from a long Breen skip pass. The Taniwha had one last chance to snatch the unlikely win but couldn’t breach the stern Otago defence.
The result has put Otago clear at the top of the Championship ladder with Manawatu five points back in second place. Northland picked up their third bonus point of the season to leap frog Southland and Bay of Plenty at the tail of the ladder.
Otago captain Paul Grant said: “We had to dig it in at the end, it was a good 80 minute performance with both teams running it. It’s been a big couple of weeks for us so now we have to front on Sunday.”
Otago 33 (Naulia Dawai, Jack Wilson 2, Matt Faddes tries, Fletcher Smith 2 pen, 2 con, Scott Eade con) Northland 28 (Matt Matich, Shane Neville, Jone Macilai tries, Peter Breen 3 pen, 2 con)
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