Otago side finds its feet

Sio Tomkinson, of Otago, is tackled by Liam Mitchell and Rob Thompson, of Manawatu, during their...
Sio Tomkinson, of Otago, is tackled by Liam Mitchell and Rob Thompson, of Manawatu, during their round-three Mitre 10 Cup match at Central Energy Trust Arena on Saturday in Palmerston North. Photo: Getty Images
The benchmark has been set — now it is time to reach it consistently and push it even higher.

Otago racked up a mighty impressive 50-17 victory over Manawatu on Saturday, getting its Mitre 10 Cup campaign on the road.

Otago was down 17-14 at halftime after a messy opening 40 minutes by both teams in Palmerston North but it was the only side in the contest in the second half.

It found space, made the advantage line with ease and when the chances came along, they were taken with glee. The side needed a win after losing its first two games and this victory should do plenty for its confidence.

Otago scored 36 unanswered points in the second half, bagging five tries, bringing up 50 points with a converted try right at the end of the game.

Scoring a half-century of points looked a remote possibility after a first half that lacked accuracy and continuity from the visiting team.

Otago coach Ben Herring said the side just had to be more patient in the first half.

"We were trying to score from everything, putting in some cross kicks and just pushing it much more than we needed," Herring said.

"In that second half we just did the basics really well. Got a really good flow on and a lot of cool heads out there."

Herring said the ability to play the basics well gave the side some momentum and it rode that throughout the second half.

"Our attack looked good in the second half but I thought our defence was very strong too. We created a lot of turnover ball with our defence and that gave us chances.

"That is the benchmark for us — we need to be there every week."

Herring praised the performance of the two halfbacks. Kurt Hammer made his starting debut, while Melani Matavao came on near the end for his first match in an Otago jersey and scored a try in the 80th minute to cap off a fine team performance.

In the first half, the set piece from both teams was ordinary as a strong wind made the lineout a lottery.

Manawatu led 17-7 at one stage but a nice break from Otago winger Jona Nareki off a messy lineout led to a converted try to flanker Naulia Dawai just before the break.

That kept the visiting side handy and it rolled over the lads in green in the second half.

Fullback and captain Michael Collins squeezed down the sideline to put the side ahead five minutes into the second half.

Matt Whaanga ran a great line to reach the tryline on the hour mark and from there, Otago simply ran away from Manawatu, as the wheels fell off the home team.

Further tries came from Donald Brighouse and Nareki  as Otago waltzed away with the win.

Herring said everyone had come through the game well and the side would begin preparations today to take on Northland this Friday night at Forsyth Barr Stadium.In other games over the weekend, Canterbury beat Bay of Plenty 31-19 and North Harbour was beaten 32-20 by Tasman. Hawke’s Bay lost to  Counties-Manukau 29-25 and Northland shaded Taranaki 18-17.

• Otago was beaten 44-16 by Tasman in Christchurch in the first round of the provincial B competition on Saturday.


Mitre 10 Cup
The scores

Otago      50

Dylan Nel, Naulia Dawai, Michael Collins, Matt Whaanga, Donald Brighouse, Jona Nareki, Melani Matavao tries; Josh Ioane 6 con, pen

Manawatu      17

Rob Thompson, Junior Lalofi, Fa’alelei Sione tries; Jade Te Rure con

Halftime: 17-14 Manawatu

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