Otago was good, but Taranaki was better

As the provincial rugby season finally comes to an end, Jeff Cheshire looks back at how Otago’s campaign went. 

Best performance

44-16 win over Manawatu

Otago ran rampant in the second half of a devastating semifinal display. It battled hard up front early on and its scrum showed all its power in dismantling the Manawatu pack. Then, the backline showed how lethal it could be as space opened up.

Worst performance

34-10 loss to Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay was certainly a quality team this year, despite stumbling in the Premiership semifinals. On this day, though, Otago was comprehensively outplayed in its Ranfurly Shield challenge.

Key players

Josh Ioane

Found his form midway through the competition and was fantastic from that point. Won games with his boot, but more importantly was lethal when he took the ball to the line.

Liam Coltman

Was missing with a knee injury for most of the season, but made a huge difference both to the set piece and around the park when he returned.

Ones to watch

Christian Lio-Willie

Came in to the starting line-up when Dylan Nel left and barely put a foot wrong. Carried strongly and was always busy on defence. Unlucky not to be picked up by a Super Rugby team.

Fabian Holland

Still very young, but showed plenty of the promise many have touted him as having. A huge target in the lineout and does some good work around the field, including a memorable try against Wellington.

Defining moment

After a shaky start and the rust that followed the lockdown break, Otago had just one win from four games. A win over Northland got it back on track, but a gutsy win over Canterbury at Forsyth Barr Stadium was a turning point. From there, this team played with belief and it seemed to get better each week. Key players returned and by the end of the season it was producing quality all over the park. It was just a shame the best team in either NPC division, Taranaki, also happened to be stranded in the Championship.

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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