Essential Otago wins at home

A panoramic view of Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night. Photos: Peter McIntosh
A panoramic view of Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago is looking to make a mark at home when it hosts Counties-Manukau under the roof tomorrow.

Midway through the regular season in the Mitre 10 Cup and Otago is right in the hunt.

It sits third on the Championship table and is handily enough placed to at least make an impact as the finals come calling.

But to do that the side needs to win its next two games — both at home against fellow Championship sides.

First up is Counties-Manukau at Forsyth Barr Stadium and then Northland comes calling next Friday night.

Otago has played two games at home already this year and disappointed in both.

First up, in front of no spectators the side went down to Auckland 38-6 and then a couple of weeks ago had a disappointing Ranfurly Shield defence, losing 28-9 to Hawke’s Bay — Otago failed to score a try in either contest.

Otago has to do better and coach Tom Donnelly is the first to acknowledge that.

"With all the travel and stuff you do you just have to win your home games. In the first two games we just have not put the performances out on the park and we need to be better," Donnelly said.

"In our division there are teams playing some pretty good footy. It is tough to win away from home so you’ve got to make the most of your home matches."

Otago has made some changes to its side. Michael Collins moves to second five-eighth with Vilimoni Koroi starting at fullback. Freedom Vahaakolo will start on the right wing.

Liam Coltman will start at the game at hooker and George Bower also comes back into the front row. Jamie Mackintosh moves to the bench.

Coltman and Josh Ioane were away training with the All Blacks earlier this week but Donnelly was confident the duo would slip comfortably back into the side.

With Aleki Morris-Lome missing because of an ankle injury, Matt Whaanga comes into the reserves as midfield cover. Nasi Manu has also regained fitness and takes a place in the reserves.

The match will start earlier at 1.15pm tomorrow and Donnelly said it would seem somewhat strange but the side would adjust to the time.

Counties-Manukau has just the one win this season — over Manawatu — but is not out of the running. Kieran Read will start at No8 while Highlanders Tevita Nabura and Kirisi Kuridrani start on the wings for the team.

Prop Conan O’Donnell, who made an appearance for the Highlanders early in Super Rugby, will be in the front row.

Otago v Counties-Manukau

Forsyth Barr Stadium, tomorrow, 1.15pm
Otago: Vilimoni Koroi, Freedom Vahaakolo, Josh Timu, Michael Collins (captain), 
Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Sione Misiloi, Dylan Nel, Charles Elton, 
Josh Dickson, Jack Regan, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, George Bower.
Reserves: Ricky Jackson, Jamie Mackintosh, Hisa Sasagi, Will Tucker, Nasi Manu, Jono Hickey, 
Matt Whaanga, Sean Withy
Counties-Manukau: Etene Nanai-Seturo, Kirisi Kuridrani, Sione Molia, Orbyn Leger 
(captain), Tevita Nabura, Baden Kerr, Jonathan Taumateine, Kieran Read, Alamanda 
Motuga, Sam Slade, Matiaha Martin, Potu Leavasa, Conan O’Donnell, Donald Maka, 
Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Reserves: Zuriel Togiatama, Clinton Malolua, Suetena Asomua, 
Viliame Rarasea, Viliami Taulani, Cameron Roigard, Latiume Fosita, Luteru Laulala.
Referee: Angus Mabey (Auckland).

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