Otago edge Taniwha under the roof

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Friday, September 7, 2018    Getty Images

It was a crunch clash for both teams with the winner set to move to second in the Championship and the loser dropping out of the top four. Although the Mitre 10 Cup is only in its fourth round, the pivotal nature of the clash was not lost on either team as the opening 20 minutes were played at a high intensity.


Neither team refused to yield in a physical opening quarter. It took a long range shot from Northland first five-eighth Jack Debreczeni to open the scoring in the 20th minute.

Otago kept a very simple game plan with first five-eighth Josh Ioane plugging the gaps, the midfield employing a crash ball tactic and the big forward pack running one-off from the ruck.

The tactic paid off when powerful loose forward Dylan Nel burst over for the first try of the game in the 27th minute. It didn’t take long for Northland to strike back with the spark coming from Rene Ranger who hit the line at pace to put the Taniwha into Otago’s ’22. The ball was immediately swung out Tamati Tua who finished well in the corner to give Northland the 7-10 halftime lead.

Melbourne Rebels star Jack Debreczeni was superb from the tee and tactically throughout the game but showed his danger with ball in hand early in the second half. The 6 foot 4 tall pivot stepped through the Otago defence close to the line and used his long arms to stretch out and score to extend Northland’s lead to 7-17.

As it turned out, Northland’s 10 point lead early in the second half was the biggest lead either team would enjoy in what was a highly contested encounter.

Both teams were desperate on defence and none more so than Sam Nock in the 48th minute. When Otago pivot Josh Ioane danced over the line, Nock did well to wrap him up and prevent the ball from touching the chalk.

But Otago continued to press on Northland’s line and scored again out wide when Jona Nareki laid on a fine finish with two Northland defenders on him.

Ioane and Debreczeni traded penalties to leave the score delicately balanced at 17-20 to Northland with 17 minutes left on the clock. Otago had the chance to add another three points from in front but opted for a scrum and it paid off when Joketani Koroi barged his way over to grab a 24-20 lead for Otago.

Interestingly, it was the first time all season that Northland had conceded a try in the final 20 minutes of a match.

Ioane and Debreczeni traded penalties again late in the match as the score finished 27-23 to the home side.

Duane Monkley Medal points

3: Dylan Nel
2: Jack Debreczeni
1: Jona Nareki

Otago 27 (Dylan Nel, Jona Nareki, Joketani Koroi tries, Josh Ioane 3 con, 2 pen) Northland 23 (Tamati Tua tries, Jack Debreczeni try, 3 pen, 2 con)
HT: 7-10