Harbour opens lead but others chasing hard

Taieri centre William Ngatai looks to break through the Dunedin defence at Peter Johnstone Park...
Taieri centre William Ngatai looks to break through the Dunedin defence at Peter Johnstone Park on Saturday.PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Harbour put some distance between itself and the chasing pack thanks to a 24-18 win against Green Island on Saturday.

But Taieri has moved through the field and is now up to second. It beat Dunedin 22-0.

University is also looming in the rear vision mirror. It accounted for Alhambra-Union 48-5, while Kaikorai remains firmly in the hunt for a playoff spot, after edging Southern 17-11.

Kaikorai 17 Southern 11

Kaikorai spent basically the entire first half on defence.

But in virtually its only foray into Southern's 22 it emerged with a seven-pointer.

Loosehead prop Sidney Fidow did all the grunt work. He barrelled his way towards the line towing several tacklers with him.

When he eventually crumbled under their weight, loose forward Christian Lio-Willie scooped the ball up and burrowed over.

Ben Miller kicked the conversion from in front and that was probably the defining moment in the game.

They were the only points scored into the blustery wind in the entire game.

The combination of the bitter cold and wet underfoot conditions meant there were plenty of mistakes made at Bishopscourt.

It was not a day for wingers, really, yet two of them stood out. Southern's Riku Kitahara sprinted to the corner from 40m out after centre Paul Tupai strolled through a gap.

But Kaikorai right winger Jordan McEntee scored the try of the game. Southern fumbled midway through the second half. Kaikorai pounced, sending the ball quickly out to the right where McEntee was waiting. He grabbed the ball and hared 60m to score.

Miller converted and added a penalty to stretch the lead to 17-11.

The game could have gone either way but Kaikorai seized those two moments and that was enough.

Lio-Willie made some strong bursts and No8 Patrick McCurran was never far from the ball, while openside Brad Horne had a busy game for Southern.

Taieri 22 Dunedin 0

In inclement conditions, this game was about the side taking its opportunities and Taieri took them all, with an apparently comfortable victory, plus the bonus point.

An understrength Dunedin side which has been down on confidence because of its inability to score points in recent weeks lived up to that reputation.

The visiting side had possession and territory for large chunks of the game, especially in the first spell, but coughed up possession at crucial times through bad handling or sloppy passing.

But Taieri is not the best defensive side in the competition for nothing and competently handled everything Dunedin threw its way.

Taieri scored inside the first 18 minutes, when flanker Alex Niedzwiecki went over close to the posts from a prolonged build-up. Then in the last play of the first spell Taieri midfielder Matt Whaanga put through a kick which speedy winger Marc Rooney latched on to, putting the side a dozen up at the break at Peter Johnstone Park.

The second spell mirrored the first, when midfielder Willie Ngatai was given space on the outside early in the spell. Then late in the game, Whaanga beat three tackles on a 35m run to the corner to complete the scoring.

For Taieri Whaanga and Ngatai had the edge on their opposites and were strong and agile with ball in hand. Halfback Bob Martin got through plenty of work and flanker Niedzwiecki was into everything. Up front, big Highlanders prop Josh Iosefa Scott was powerful at scrum time and lively round the track.

For Dunedin, props Teague McElroy and Sepa Vaka carried powerfully and never took a backward step in the tight stuff. Young flanker Josh Retter had his best game for the Sharks.

University 48 Alhambra-Union 5

Watch out - here comes University.

The co-defending champion has been lagging behind most of the season.

A slow start to the campaign has proven to be quite a hump to get over. There has been the odd setback, as well. The shock 19-15 loss to Dunedin in round seven comes to mind.

But the 48-5 win against Alhambra-Union at the University of Otago Oval is a sound reminder the Bookworms are firmly in contention.

The win has lifted them into the top four and it is hard to see them dropping out.

University led 15-0 at the break. It was not a particularly constructive opening 40 minutes.

The first points came after AU hooker Alex Frood collected a yellow card for deliberately knocking the ball down.

University exploited the numerical advantage with an attack down the blindside.

Taylor Haugh skipped through to score the first of his two tries. His pace and footwork presented a constant threat.

AU had a bright start to the second half. No8 Utu Tapueluelu got across for his side's only try.

But University scored five tries in the last 30 minutes to run away with a comfortable win.

Haugh was electric, while Highlanders loose forward Dillon Hunt got through his usual crazy workload.

AU centre, John Tapueluelu gave a tremendous account of himself in the midfield. The score could have been a lot higher had he not been there to shore up the defence.

Harbour 24 Green Island 18

It proved to be a game of the centuries when Harbour retained pole position in the competition standings with a hard-fought 24-18 victory over first-round champion Green Island at Watson Park.

As Green Island jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, courtesy of a stunning team try by left wing Alex Barnsley after No8 Sean Jansen swooped on loose ball from a Harbour line out. The ball went from player to player across field before ending up in the arms of Barnsley who scored in the corner.

Isaak Te Hiwi missed the conversion, but was first to hit the century mark five minutes later, with a 35m penalty that he aimed for the far left corner. The strong southerly wind that marred an otherwise intense competitive affair pulled it in line with the posts for the three-pointer and Te Hiwi's 100 points for the season.

After a period of sustained attack metres out from the Green Island line, Harbour scored through second five-eighth Hemaua Samasoni. Logan Allen's conversion sent him into three figures for the season.

After trailing 8-7 at the break, Harbour scored three tries early in the second half and although Green Island replied with two of its own, the damage was done, and the lead yielded, once the home side took the lead early in the second half.

The third century of the game was achieved when Hale T-Pole ran on as a replacement in second spell, to notch up 100 appearances for the home side.

 - ODT rugby writers 

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