Otago keen to end Napier drought

Cory Brown
Cory Brown
Otago is due — well overdue — for a win in Hawke’s Bay.The blue and golds are set to take on Hawke’s Bay in Napier tomorrow and will be looking to get one over the home side — something of a rare occurrence.

A check through the record books shows the last time Otago won in Napier was way back in 1993, when it beat the Magpies 20-9.

Ever since then it has fallen to the side, although for the decade before the domestic competition expanded to 14 teams in 2006, the teams did not play each other.

Otago’s last win against the Bay was in 2010 on a windswept Carisbrook, and it has lost its last six games against the black and whites.

But the game is not won on history. It is about what is happening here and now.

Otago is coming off a good performance against Manawatu last week and wants to keep up the high standards, says coach Cory Brown.

‘‘We have not beaten Hawke’s Bay up there for a long time. But the boys are really excited and will be going out trying to perform at their very best,’’ Brown said.

‘‘They [Hawkes Bay] are a very proud province and are going to be desperate for a win. We’re going to have to go up there and be mentally and physically ready for a battle.

‘‘They are a strong, physically aggressive side who like to carry the ball and dominate the middle of the field. But our guys are ready for the challenge.’’

The sides did not meet last year, while in 2015, Hawke’s Bay came to Dunedin and ran away with the game in the second half, thanks to an Israel Dagg hat trick, to win 39-22.

Brown said why Otago has struggled in Napier was not obvious. It was a lengthy trip to get to Napier and Hawke’s Bay always lifted against Otago.

The home side, though, has had issues this season and has just the one win after four games.

It dispatched Southland in the first game of the season, but has then lost to Bay of Plenty, Canterbury and went down 40-27 to Wellington in the capital on Wednesday.

It has a raft of injuries and at last count had more than 15 players out.

Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon is struggling with a hip injury and Gareth Evans had not shaken off a bang to his thigh in the opening game. Neither will front, while others not available include locks Mark Allardice and Geoff Cridge and prop Ben May.

Both these sides will fancy themselves to make the semifinals of the Mitre 10 Cup championship, so a win is vital.

Hawke’s Bay has been misfiring this season but has played two top teams in Wellington and Canterbury in its last two games. It will welcome Otago and will want to get back on a winning run.
The weather tomorrow is expected to be cloudy with the chance of a shower.

Mitre 10 Cup
Napier, tomorrow, 4.35pm
Otago: Fletcher Smith, Leroy van Dam, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, Adam Knight, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Josh Dickson, Josh Furno, Hisa Sasagi, Sam Anderson-Heather (captain), Craig Millar. Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli, Donald Brighouse, Blair Tweed, Sione Teu, Jonathan Ruru, Josh Timu, Latu Vaeno
Hawkes Bay: Tiaan Falcon, Jonah Lowe, Hayden Hann, Richard Buckman, Sam McNicol, Ihaia West, Brad Weber (captain), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Hugh Renton, Lucas Goodin, Josh Eden Whaitiri, Nick Palmer, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Jorian Tangaere, Jason Long. Reserves: Jacob Devery, Mark Braidwood, Jarvy Aoake, Ben Parsons, Fa’alemiga Selesele, Ellery Wilson, Cardiff Vaega, TJ Vaega
Referee: Shane McDermott (Bay of Plenty)

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