You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
It was a bridge too far for Otago last night in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final, the visiting side going down 36-13 to Waikato in Hamilton.
It was a deserved victory for Waikato. It was much hungrier in both attack and defence and Otago, if it was not missing tackles, was throwing poor balls and kicking inaccurately.
The shame for Otago after making so many improvements over the past couple of months was it put on a bit of a stinker when it really mattered.
It had no ball or territory in the first half. It had more ball in the second half but it was just a misfiring performance. The passes did not go to hand. The kicks went to hand rather than space and the angles run by the attack never asked anything of the Waikato defence.
The side tried hard but it could have played until midnight and still not got near the home team.
The tough couple of games played by the side in the past two weeks looked to have caught up with the Blue and Golds.
There was something of a false dawn early in the second half.
Otago worked the ball up the field and some quick hands by Michael Collins and Matt Faddes put flanker James Lentjes over for a converted try.
That got Otago back to 19-13 but that scoreline lasted all of 20 seconds. Otago misread the kick-off, Waikato winger Tyler Campbell caught the ball and sprinted away to score.
That blew the score out out to 26-13 again and, when Sevu Reece scored after quarter of an hour in the second half, the game was as good as over.
There were few who stood out for Otago and it was a sad way to end the season which has delivered so much including that fabulous Ranfurly Shield win two weeks ago.
Waikato came out of the blocks in the first half and scored two converted tries in the opening 20 minutes.
The home team completely dominated the first half and Otago missed 19 tackles in the opening 40 minutes which is far too many at this level.
Otago was guilty of sloppiness on defence and the home team was awake to the opportunities.
After six minutes, Otago halfback Kurt Hammer missed a tackle on Waikato centre Quinn Tupaea and that got the home team in behind the defence.
Steaming up beside Tupaea was winger Reece and the competition’s leading try-scorer could not be stopped.
Otago came back into the match after the Reece try with two Josh Ioane penalties but the visiting team was struggling to get anything going in attack.
It had no territory and Waikato was in again after 20 minutes as Tupaea strolled over. Former Otago man Fletcher Smith put a nice wide ball into the hands of the centre and he went over virtually untouched.
Otago just had nothing going right and its defence in the backline was all over the place. It spent the bulk of the first half camped within the sight of his tryline.
The Otago dam broke for a third time in the first half just past half an hour when fullback Matt Lansdown found space out wide and, after a couple of nice passes, the custodian was over.
Otago v Waikato
Sevu Reece 2, Quinn Tupaea, Matt Lansdown, Tyler Campbell tries; Fletcher Smith 4 con, pen
James Lentjes try; Josh Ioane 2 pen, con