One impressive half, one not so much for Otago

All Black fullback Ben Smith looks to burst through the tackle of Otago centre Matt Faddes as...
All Black fullback Ben Smith looks to burst through the tackle of Otago centre Matt Faddes as Matt Whaanga (obscured) assists at AMI Stadium last night. Photo: Getty Images
It was a game of two very different halves for Otago at a sold-out Game of Three Halves in Christchurch last night.

Otago’s first-half 28-12 win against a Cantabrians team should have fans licking their lips before  the Mitre 10 Cup as Otago looked like scoring every time its backline was given space to operate.

However, its  second-half  33-0 loss to the All Blacks showed some gaping holes in its defence.

After fighting off early pressure from the Cantabrians in the opening five minutes of half one, Otago seized a momentum it would hold throughout the game.

On the seven-minute mark Otago won a penalty just to the right-hand side of the posts 20m out but tested its set-play skills by taking a scrum. Halfback Josh Renton went blindside, carrying for 10m before a perfect cut-out pass to Mitch Scott on the wing who slid over in the corner.

Otago was in again just five minutes later. After several phases Otago worked the ball out to the left 15m out from the Cantabrians’ line. Winger Vili Koroi  showed a touch of brilliance to get away an offload to Joketani Koroi who wandered over the line untroubled to score in the far left corner.

However, when big running Fijian Filimoni Waiqainabete received the ball on a break 20m out from Otago’s line there was nothing three tacklers could do to stop him powering his way to the line before stretching out with his right arm to slam the ball over the line.

It took Otago just two minutes to restore the lead to 14 points. This time second five-eighth Sio Tomkinson slipped his way through a tackle before putting Slade McDowell through with a one-handed offload.

The fourth on the half-hour mark was arguably the most spectacular piece of individual skill. Koroi caught a clearing kick in space on halfway, stepped his way around four defenders and slipped a late pass to Matt Faddes as the last Cantabrian defender approached.

Outside of the exciting back play, credit must go to the locking combination of Tom Rowe and Josh Dickson who constantly successfully contested the Cantabrians lineout.

Otago struggled to gain possession during the opening 20 minutes against the All Blacks and was punished four times in quick succession.

Otago will not feel too disheartened by the result after watching the Cantabrians get ripped apart 40-5 by the All Blacks in the third and final half. Otago lock Josh Larsen looked to be sporting what could be a dislocated shoulder following a run-in with Brodie Retallick at a breakdown while loose forward McDowell also left the field with a suspected head knock.

 

Game of three halves
The scores
 

Half one

Otago 28 Mitch Scott, Vili Koroi, Slade McDowall, Matt Faddes tries; Josh Ioane 4 con

Cantabrians 12 Filimoni Waqainabete, Kalolo Otutaha tries; James Hawkey con)
 

Half two

All Blacks 33 Rieko Ioane 3, Waisake Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Shannon Frizell tries; Beauden Barrett con

Otago 0
 

Half three

All Blacks 40 Ngani Laumape 2, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ardie Savea, Anton Lienert-Brown,  TJ Perenara 2, Rieko Ioane tries

Canterbury 5 Tom Christie try

 - by Gordon Findlater

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