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Otago Country regained the Tri-series Trophy and will hold it until next season after a nail-biting 33-29 win over Canterbury Country in Christchurch on Saturday.
The teams were locked 12-12 at halftime. Otago Country played free-flowing rugby and looked like it was up for the challenge. Canterbury Country scrambled well on defence, but the constant pressure took its toll.
Both sides played with structure and looked good with ball in hand. Otago Country scored two first-half tries through flanker Max Pennell and midfielder Angus Gibb.
The second half was more open and the ball was given plenty of air. Both sides counter-attacked well from deep and found holes in the opposition defence.
Canterbury Country enjoyed more possession, and it began to make it tell as it started to pull away on the scoresheet with some well-taken tries. Otago Country scored another try through flanker Pennell, his second of the match, and were down by three points with five minutes left on the clock. Canterbury Country was on its own goal line and was given a penalty. The penalty missed touch, and was collected by Otago Country centre Hayden Todd, who beat five defenders to score the winning try for his side. The conversion was successful, and the travelling Otago Country side saw the game out for a very well-deserved victory.
Coach Marty Hurring said he could not be prouder of his side after its effort. Once again both flankers Pennell and Josh Brown were immense. Brown has been dependable all season. He is strong with ball in hand and fantastic on defence. Prop Ben Millar was hard to stop with ball in hand and was always ready to hit the contact areas. Halfback Ben Maxwell kicked well off the tee and directed play well.
- Francis Parker