Otago notches half-century over North Harbour

Photosport     09 Oct 2006     Photosport

As a result, Otago will play Waikato at Hamilton in one Air New Zealand Cup semi-final next weekend while Wellington will meet Auckland at Eden Park.

Otago's first half blitz, with four tries scored in the last 10 minutes of the spell, rocked North Harbour and effectively shut it out of the game. Otago scored seven tries to three in the game overall.

Otago demonstrated its intent from the outset, making the early plays and camping in the North Harbour 22m area during the first 10 minutes, with its most likely break coming from first five-eighths Nick Evans. He used his acceleration to race through a gap and to be pulled down just short of the goal-line.

When North Harbour looked to clear its line, its kick failed to find touch and wing Karne Hesketh opened play to the left. Left wing Matt Saunders opened the flank up and from the subsequent ruck, halfback Toby Morland crossed wide out. Evans hit the post with the conversion attempt.

Otago continued on the rampage with flanker Josh Blackie, hooker Anton Oliver and prop Carl Hayman making strong runs. North Harbour No.8 Nick Williams infringed at a ruck and Evans landed a penalty goal.

The North Harbour response came from a counter-attack launched off an Otago kick ahead which wing Rudi Wulf used to take the play back up to halfway with a ducking, weaving run which ultimately resulted in room on the left flank.

First five-eighths Luke McAlister raced ahead and kicked infield but was unable to escape the clutches of the defence. Wulf looked to go over in the corner from the ruck but he stepped into touch and Otago cleared its line.

However, McAlister suffered in the tackle and became yet another All Black who was forced to leave the field over the weekend.

Otago fired back onto attack after No.8 Adam Thomson secured lineout ball allowing centre Neil Brew to crunch it up and then provide a gap which Evans flew through only to lack support on his outside.

Ten minutes from halftime, Otago turned over ball and with Evans feeding Hesketh into the clear, the wing stepped around fullback George Pisi and raced to touch down in the corner. Evans added the conversion to take Otago out to 15-0.

Moments later Pisi had a kick ahead charged down and Brew raced onto the ball, kicked ahead and North Harbour had to carry the ball into the in-goal. From the resulting scrum Thomson charged around the blindside to touch down. Evans added the conversion.

From the re-start, Otago stormed back down the field with replacement flanker Ezra Taylor making a bullocking run to feed flanker Josh Blackie. The ruck ball was fed by Evans at halfback and second five-eighths Callum Bruce raced through a big gap to add more pain for North Harbour.

Then 22 seconds before halftime, wing Matt Saunders
chipped into the North Harbour 22m area, regathered the ball and raced in for the simplest of tries.

Finally, eight minutes into the second half, a break by wing Vilame Waqaseduadua provided the lift for the home crowd. He found space and when challenged he kicked ahead for Wulf to run onto the ball, slip over, and then regain his feet to score. Replacement five-eighths Tusi Pisi landed the conversion.

There was further reward for a more determined second half North Harbour effort when captain Rua Tipoki crossed with Pisi adding another conversion with 14 minutes of the game left.

The coup de grace was delivered with five minutes left when Otago broke out from its own line with fullback Craig Clare starting the move, linking with replacement Chris Smylie with Clare turning up to run the last 40m to score.

There was still time for another bullocking effort which saw the last try go to lock James Ryan who completed his journey from injury with a fine reward for his efforts.

Right on fulltime Anthony Tuitavake scored the final try.

Otago 56 (Toby Morland, Karne Hesketh, Adam Thomson, Callum Bruce, Matt Saunders, Craig Clare, James Ryan 1 try, Nick Evans 4 con, Bruce 2 con, Evans 1 pen, Bruce 2 pen) North Harbour 21 (Rudi Wulf, Rua Tipoki, Anthony Tuitavake 1 try, Tusi Pisi 3 con) HT: 36-0 Otago