Otago has room for improvement

Otago's Dylan Nel runs away from Southland's Moses Faletolu to score during the Ranfurly Shield...
Otago's Dylan Nel runs away from Southland's Moses Faletolu to score during the Ranfurly Shield match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Better from Otago but still a long way to go.

That was the words of coach Ben Herring after the blue and golds beat Southland 41-22 at Forsyth Barr Stadium, defending the Ranfurly Shield and also taking its first points of the Mitre 10 Cup season.

Otago led 17-3 at the break and had too much attacking ability for a Southland side which tried hard but made too many individual errors.

Otago had been thumped by 50 points in its first game of the season against Bay of Plenty so it was good for its confidence to get a win.

Herring said the side showed some nice touches.

"The intensity was there. There was a lot of little mistakes all over the show but the intensity was there which was pretty good. The guys bounced back pretty well and a lot of good stuff," he said.

"There was a lot left out there, which is a good thing. So by no means was it a polished performance and there is a grade for improvement. There was an edge for things, which is good. A lot of chat, which is a good sign.

"Overall, you have to be happy. That is where we want to be."

He praised the performance of first five-eighth Vilimoni Koroi, who he said was playing well in the new role and growing each week.

Players got on to the front foot and Herring praised the performance of flanker Slade McDowall. He felt McDowall was asking to go to the next level with his efforts and ability to get involved in the game.

The side was a tad over-eager at times but that came down to a lack of experience. But it showed some nice touches on attack and was solid on defence for much of the game.

Otago rushed out of the blocks and scored after four minutes, when winger Jona Nareki made the most of the good work inside him.

The home side had plenty of chances but coughed the ball up at vital times in the first half.

It scored a vital try after the hooter had gone for halftime, winning a lineout 5m out and rolling over, McDowall scoring the try.

No8 Dylan Nel then powered over in the early stages of the second half. He got the ball 40m out, pushed through a couple of soft tackles from Southland and then swerved past the final defender to score.

Southland never gave up but after scoring its first try, lost the ball at the kick-off, the ball went to Nareki and he ran in his second.

Further tries came from Otago for lock Josh Dickson and replacement halfback Rowan Gouws.

Best for Otago were wingers Nareki and Henry Purdy, who showed some real speed, in the backs, while up front Dickson and prop Aki Seiuli were busy.

Otago will not have much time to dwell on the victory as it heads to Napier to play Hawke's Bay on Thursday. Southland will take on North Harbour in Invercargill on Sunday.

In other results over the weekend, Taranaki beat Manawatu 13-10 while yesterday Tasman beat Canterbury 23-8 and Bay of Plenty beat Waikato 40-14 in Rotorua.

Otago under-19 beat Tasman under-19 46-6 in Christchurch on Saturday. The team led 15-6 at halftime and ran away with the fixture in the second spell.

Front-rowers Saula Ma'u, Shane Fikken and Austin Atiga dominated, while halfback James Arscott was instrumental and fullback Harrison Boyle also impressed.

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