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Scoring 54 points was great, but letting in 36 really wasn't against a team that had not scored four tries once so far this season. Against Otago, Northland crossed the line six times and the majority of those tries came far too easily. Otago missed 30 tackles in another game which saw many players going too high and getting pushed off far too easily. You can get away with that against a team like Northland, as you can score plenty of points yourself. When it comes to playing teams like Wellington and Hawke's Bay however, you do not have that luxury. They will be even more deadly on attack and will make you work for every point. If Otago want to make a run for the championship title, the missed tackles are the first thing that needs to be sorted out.
Lack of impact from reserves
Otago made a lot of changes in the middle of the second half and as can sometimes be the case, the team became dysfuncational at that point. Earlier they held the ball well and looked dangerous on attack, but during the last 20 minutes they were defending most of the time and falling off tackles. Whether or not that is the fault of any individuals is another thing, but the team as a whole struggled to operate effectively from the middle of the second half onwards and very few of the reserves actually made an impact. Sometimes it can be hard to come on and get into a game, particularly when it is so one-sided. A lot of the players brought on have been starting in recent weeks too, which requires a different approach, and changing at such short notice can difficult.
Lethal on attack
Enough with the negatives. There were still plenty of positives for Otago to take from this game. Most obviously, their attack was outstanding, with Tony Ensor in particular standing out with his ability to find gaps in the defence at will. Whether it was on the counter or coming into the line, Ensor seemed to be able to pick the gap and do what he had to to take it. He had the Northland defence back-tracking throughout the first and was responsible for setting up two tries, before running a great line into a hole to score a third from first phase. Along with him Jack Wilson and Jayden Spence looked good with ball in hand, while Fletcher Smith ran well at the line and constantly proved a threat, setting up a couple of tries in the process.
The Otago lineout operated well and provided a good platform to either attack from or to set a maul, which has proved to be such a potent weapon for them. Josh Dickson was the key jumper used, and he was a reliable target in the middle and at the back, providing Otago with a go-to man in the absence of Tom Franklin. Jackson Hemopo was generally good too, being used in the middle and giving Otago a second option to ensure Northland could not just focus on Dickson. Both Coltman and Pole threw well, while the maul was well done and contributed two tries. On the Northland throw Dickson got up quickly at the front and stole their first two lineouts to force them to look elsewhere.
Fletcher Smith was outstanding in general play, but his goal kicking was a bit off. He made a couple of tough ones from the sideline, but he missed a few that he should have made too, which in a closer game could be the difference. Since coming into the starting lineup, Peter Breen has been one of Otago's best and his goal kicking has been of the highest class. Most notably against Wellington he made all but one kick - an ambitious attempt from halfway - and Otago ended up winning by one point. All of the points he accumulated through his kicks were crucial. That is the sort of consistency that is needed and it was not on show last night.