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The visiting side at Forsyth Barr Stadium came home strong to win the game with two tries in the final 10 minutes.
Otago was not quite accurate enough and failed to get the ball in good enough positions to score points.
It tried hard but nothing came easy to a team which has fallen off the rails in the past few weeks.
Its best of the match was winger Jona Nareki and lock Jack Regan.
Northland 32 (Jone Macilai, Jordan Olsen, Sam Nock, Matt Matich tries; Johnny Cooper con, 2 pen; Wiseguy Faiane 2 con)
Otago 19 (Jona Nareki, Josh Timu, Sio Tomkinson tries; Josh Ioane 2 con)
Halftime: 12-10 Otago