University, Taieri win in waterlogged semis

University players celebrate after winning their semifinal against Harbour at the University of...
University players celebrate after winning their semifinal against Harbour at the University of Otago Oval yesterday.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
There was little in either game as University and Taieri progressed to the club final at Forsyth Barr Stadium this Saturday.

Both semifinals on Saturday ended with 10-8 scorelines, and the sides which came out on the wrong end in both would have to consider themselves unlucky. Wet weather made scoring difficult.

Taieri scored near the end to defeat Green Island at Peter Johnstone Park, while University got home over Harbour at the University of Otago Oval in what was a replay of last year's final.

The final will kick-off at 4.15pm on Saturday.

Taieri 10 Green Island 8

Playoffs often come down to a couple of key moments, and Taieri won those as it just got home over a gutsy Green Island at Peter Johnstone Park on Saturday.

Green Island had the lion's share of possession throughout the game, but it could not shake off the home team.

Green Island missed three relatively easy penalties in the match, and that was critical. Regular Green Island kicker Isaak Te Hiwi did not take the field as he was unwell, and Alex Barnsley could not find the posts with three penalties either side of halftime.

That gave Taieri the motivation to stay in the contest, and its forwards started grinding hard and getting over the advantage line.

Green Island lock Woody Kirkwood, who was having a big game, was yellow-carded with just over 10 minutes left for taking a ruck down near his own tryline. It was a somewhat harsh call, as the home team had infringed in their own territory in the first half but not lost a player.

With Kirkwood off the field, Taieri pressed and after a couple of attempts, the try finally came. Loose forward Brodie Hume got the ball from a lineout drive and managed to slide his way over the line with just under 10 minutes left.

Josh Casey nailed the conversion from a handy position to give his side the lead and ultimately the victory.

Green Island could not get the ball into any sort of scoring position in the final minutes.

The ground cut up surprisingly quickly, and most players were covered in mud by halftime.

Green Island scored its try midway through the first half. First five-eighth Finn Strawbridge kicked the ball into the corner, and winger Mat McCutcheon got up to grab the ball and score.

Green Island's forwards drove hard and put everything on the line in front of a big crowd.

Otago and Highlanders prop Aki Seiuli came on in the second half in his first game back after 10 months out of the game because of a knee injury.

Taieri could not hold on to the ball in the first hour of the game and Green Island was tenacious in defence and had better ball security.

Best for Taieri were forwards Alex Niedzwiecki, Tom Hardy and Hume, while halfback Kurt Hammer tried hard.

Kirkwood was a hard worker for Green Island, as was No8 Sam Duncan and prop Shane Fikken. Halfback James Arscott cleared the ball well for Green Island and had a good kicking game.

University 10 Harbour 8

The metro clubs need to rethink the idea of having home semifinals for the top qualifiers when the deplorable weather plays far too big a part.

It destroyed the spectacle at the University Oval between University and Harbour.

It seems ridiculous to have played this game on a waterlogged ground which was better suited to water-skiing than rugby when there was a warm, dry, covered stadium 300m away.

The first half never reached great heights as both packs hammered away.

The first five-eighths - Mike Williams for Varsity and Logan Allen for Harbour - traded penalties for the only scoring in the spell.

The first stanza was an exercise in tedium, as it was a set of reset scrums and injury breaks.

Both sides tried to ignore the conditions and play dry weather rugby.

But handling errors were the order of the day, and mounted faster than government advisory groups.

Harbour looked the better side early in the second spell.

Finally one of its kicks through by replacement first five-eighth Aleki Morris was collected by Sio Tomkinson, and he scampered 40m before he was dragged down deep in the Varsity 22.

Harbour sensed opportunity and after two quick rucks, went blind to Tomkinson, who cut back and crashed over for the unconverted try.

Varsity awoke from its slumber in the last 10 minutes.

The lineout, which had been a lottery, finally became its strength, and it started to control territory and possession.

It started keeping the ball close to the pack and spent the best part of the last 10 minutes hammering away at the Harbour line.

The Harbour defence repelled wave after wave of Varsity assaults.

Referee Bredin kept dishing out the penalties against a desperate Harbour side, and the Varsity forwards kept attacking with the clock running down.

With seconds to go, replacement halfback Graham Urquhart spotted a minute hole between Harbour legs and squeezed through to make it 8-8.

Williams calmly slotted the conversion from in front and Bredin signalled fulltime.

Varsity flanker Sam Dickson was their best and a menace at lineout time.

The front row of Kilipati Lea, Ricky Jackson and Angus Williams were into everything, and all carried with raw energy against their bigger opposites.

For Harbour, flanker James Tomkinson was all aggression and Charles Elton never stopped for 80 minutes. Locks Sione Misiloi and Joketani Koroi carried well on occasion.

 - ODT rugby writers 

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