North Harbour hold nerve in Albany wet
Thursday, August 17, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
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The first half was a scrappy affair with Otago in particular guilty of poor ball handling in the wet. North Harbour were led astutely by Bryn Gatland at first five-eighth whose tactical kicking kept Otago pinned in their own half for large portions of the half. Gatland broke Otago hearts last year with a last minute drop goal in the Championship final and proved to be a thorn once again for Otago with a flawless first half in the wet. The talented young pivot slotted three long range penalties and found a gap in the Otago defence to set up Shaun Stevenson for the only try of the half to make it 16-0 at half time.
Otago lacked cohesion in the first half and slipped to 19-0 down early in the second half when they were caught offside and punished by another Gatland penalty.
Tries to Ruru from a well worked set-piece move and Mitchell Scott off the back of a Ioane skip pass closed the gap to 19-17 with 10 minutes to play.
But there was to be no sweet revenge for Otago as North Harbour showed great discipline to defend their half in the final ten minutes and pick up a vital win.
For North Harbour, Tevita Li was an unsung hero with some great work in the air and a number of scything breaks to show that he will be a player to watch in 2017.
Scorers: North Harbour 19 (Shaun Stevenson try, Bryn Gatland 4 pen, con) Otago 17 (Jonathan Ruru, Mitchell Scott tries, Josh Ioane pen, 2 con)
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