Sportal.co.nz 25.Aug.2012Getty Images
Parker kicked 10 goals from 11 attempts to contribute 26 points as Otago beat Northland 46-34 before a crowd of 5500 in a highly-entertaining game.
Northland were feisty opponents and also scored four tries for a bonus point while goal-kicker Ash Moeke kicked six out of six.
Otago finished third in the Championship last year and Northland fifth, Northland winning 20-17 when the teams played in Whangarei.
Otago made a strong start and led 10-0 in as many minutes. Hayden Parker opened the scoring with a penalty and right wing Jayden Spence scored a fine try after a lineout and quick phase ball created an overlap for the right wing. Parker converted splendidly from the sideline.
Otago extended their lead to 20-3 after 18 minutes with a brilliantly-taken try. Buxton Popoali'i chipped and chased, Glenn Dickson gathered and Tamati Ellison scored under the posts to end a move which had swept almost 70 metres.
But Northland struck back with a try by prop Matt Wallis, who crashed over against the goalpost padding after a series of forward drives. Moeke converted and it as 20-10.
Northland was reduced to 14 men after 30 minutes when halfback Sami Visilau was sin-binned for a high tackle on Parker but it was the Taniwha who scored next, Moeke kicking a penalty from 46 metres.
Otago deserved their 10-point halftime lead and they probably should have been ahead by more had they been able to capitalise on other opportunities. Northland had 60 percent territory but missed six tackles compared to one by Otago.
Northland made a perfect start to the second spell, lock Jack Whetton crashing over by the posts after the ball spilled out of a ruck. Moeke converted and it was 23-20 but Parker kicked his fourth penalty two minutes later to give Otago a six-point lead.
Northland took the lead for the first time seven minutes into the half with their third try. A planned lineout move was executed precisely and Visilau broke through some woeful defence to score. Moeke's conversion put the Taniwha in front, 27-26.
The topsy-turvy nature of the game continued when Parker kicked his fifth penalty for Otago to regain the lead, 29-27.
Otago scored their third try after 15 minutes when fullback Tony Ensor dummied and raced 30 metres after good lead-up work by TJ Ioane. Parker converted and it was 36-27.
They extended it to 39-27 after 25 minutes when Parker kicked his sixth penalty and increased his points tally to 24.
Otago scored their fourth and bonus point try 13 minutes from the end when Glenn Dickson put Popoali'i in space and the left winger evaded a tackle and raced 35 metres to the corner. Parker converted magnificently and Otago led 46-27.
But Northland were not quite finished. Replacement back Eddie Paea scored their fourth try, Moeke converted and it was 46-34.
Otago 46 (J.Spence, T.Ellison, T.Ensor, B.Popoali'i tries; H.Parker 4 cons, 6 pens) Northland 34 (M.Wallis, J.Whetton, S.Visilau, E.Paea tries; A.Moeke 4 cons, 2 pens) HT: 23-13