Whalers harpoon Orcas to land title

The Otago Whalers celebrate their win. (Back row, from left) Dave Reedy (coach), Hagan Free,...
The Otago Whalers celebrate their win. (Back row, from left) Dave Reedy (coach), Hagan Free, Melanie Jutel (manager) Tama Apineru, Mike Mata’afa, Mone Samate-Palu, Cam Graham, Ben Worthington, Thomas McKenzie, Owen Draper (physio), Stanley Pont (trainer); (middle row) Delaney McKenzie, Troy Anstiss, Jake Fowler, BJ Tofaeono, Cam Todd, Tofatu Solia, Ricki Allan, Louis Tili (assistant coach); (front row) Mackenzie Haugh, Eteru Ropeti, Tonga Nau, Jayden Hollander, Tepuretu Piri. Photo: Photosport
The Otago Whalers have a title and it was not even close.

They sank the Wellington Orcas 50-22 in Christchurch yesterday to win the New Zealand Rugby League Championship trophy.

Replacement forward Jake Fowler scored two tries in a man-of-the-match effort.

But a lot of spark came out wide on the flanks. Winger Mone Samate-Palu grabbed a brace and evasive halfback Cameron Todd got across for two tries as well.

Stand off Mackenzie Haugh drilled seven of his nine conversion attempts.

Early on, there was no suggestion Otago would romp to victory.

The Orcas enjoyed the majority of the possession and the dangerous Sam Filipo scored back-to-back tries.

The first came when he ran a nice line from close range. The second was a long-range effort in which he used his pace and a nice step to beat the last defender.

Down 10-0, the Whalers sprang into action. Samate-Palu scored the first of his two tries when the Whalers moved it quickly from a scrum.

Moments later, the Whalers had parity when Tofatuomoana Solia skipped over out wide.

Haugh’s passing game was instrumental in the big win but his kicking game was key as well.

His conversion put his side in front and the Whalers ran in another three tries to take a 28-10 lead at the break.

The Orcas dropped the ball shortly after the restart and Troy Anstiss scooped it up and scored.

Fowler muscled over for his second to put the Whalers up 40-10.

The game lost a little shape after that. The Whalers were not able to match their earlier intensity and Wellington gathered some consolation points.

It was the first time since the teams first met in 1928 that Otago scored 50 points.

Otago prop Mika Mafi was a late scratching. His father died and he was in Tonga for the funeral.

A minute’s silence was observed before the game.

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