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Otago scored the upset of the season at Eden Park last night, downing Auckland 31-26 in a Mitre 10 Cup match.
Auckland has been flying high all season, not losing a game, but Otago came to town and skittled the big boys in blue and white.
Otago took the chances that came along, tackled heroically and showed plenty of ticker when needed. It was just the second win at Eden Park in more than 40 years for Otago and the side retained the Lin Colling Memorial Trophy with the victory.
No-one played better than centre Matt Faddes, who helped himself to three tries.
He made some big plays and the ability to find the tryline kept his side in front in the second half.Otago coach Ben Herring said it was a gutsy win.
"The guys did particularly well on defence, especially in the close quarter stuff. They are big guys and we got up there and knocked them over," he said.
"That comes back to heart in the team. The spirit is building in the team and all those invisible things are coming together.
"We were more clinical when we needed to be and there is a bit of belief in the side."
Otago went into the second half down 19-17, but Faddes stepped a couple of forwards near the tryline to give his side the lead eight minutes into the second half.
Then with just under a quarter of the match left, first five-eighth Josh Ioane put in a nice chip kick. Faddes attacked the ball and picked it up on the bounce, spun round and went over.
That gave the team a 31-19 lead and although Auckland scored through its power scrum with seven minutes left, Otago held on.
It tried to run the clock down but after 25 phases was penalised. Auckland poured on to attack but could not find the try and Otago had the victory.
Faddes was top notch for Otago, along with flanker Slade McDowall, lock Tom Rowe and prop Hisa Sasagi.Otago made a great start, scoring after just 100 seconds.
Auckland carted the ball up but Otago burgled the ball from the back of the breakdown. It went into the hands of winger Vilimoni Koroi, who showed a clean pair of heels to score.
But Auckland is too big and strong to go away and rumbled its way back into the game. Otago fullback and captain Michael Collins was yellow carded for knocking the ball out — saving a try at the same time — and Auckland made the most of the extra man.
Centre Tumua Manu scored after a nice drive by the forwards, while loose forward Dalton Papali’i went over shortly afterwards when Otago ran out of numbers in defence.
But Otago did not raise the white flag and after a period on attack, winger Jona Nareki got a nice ball from Faddes and streaked over in the left hand corner.
Otago could not keep up the pressure and Manu again went over as the Otago lineout — not for the first time in the half — went wonky.
But Faddes answered well for the visiting team. He caught the kick-off and Otago swarmed on to attack.
The ball was eventually freed to the left, Faddes spied a small gap and pushed through to score.
Collins left the field at halftime after rolling an ankle but it was too early to say how bad it was.
Mitre 10 Cup
Matt Faddes 3, Jona Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi tries; Josh Ioane 3 con
Tumua Manu 2, Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane tries; Harry Plummer 3 con
Halftime: 19-17 Auckland