Otago's comeback too little, too late

Otago's Henry Purdy (left) and Vilimoni Koroi tackle Jonah Lowe, of Hawke's Bay, during the Mitre...
Otago's Henry Purdy (left) and Vilimoni Koroi tackle Jonah Lowe, of Hawke's Bay, during the Mitre 10 Cup match at McLean Park in Napier last night. Photo: Getty Images
It came home like a steam train but left the station way too late.

That was the story for Otago when it went down 29-21 to Hawke's Bay in Napier last night.

The home team was ahead 29-7 with three quarters of the game gone, but Otago came back well, scored two converted tries and there was a sniff of an opportunity to get at least a bonus point.

Otago, though, could not get another score and it came away from the game with no competition points.

The side was under pressure for most of the match, could not get much continuity into its game and displayed sloppy errors. It also conceded 16 penalties while only picking up six - a statistic which makes it awfully hard to win.

The team woke up in the final 15 minutes, and, led by first five-eighth Josh Ioane, showed some nice touches on attack.

It found some space out wide and through the middle as the home side began to tire in defence.

It was a real game of two halves as Hawke's Bay had the lion's share of play in the opening half, while Otago had more play in the second 40 minutes.

Ioane was the spark for many of the Otago attacks in the second half - he threw some nice passes which put players into space and also attacked the line which left the Hawke's Bay defence flat-footed.

He scored himself when he ran through some tired forwards.

Replacement fullback Michael Collins then scored after a nice inside ball from Vilimoni Koroi and, eight points down with as many minutes left, there was slight optimism from Otago supporters.

But it again conceded penalties and failed to hang on to the ball and the home team played out the game in the last stages.

Otago coach Ben Herring said he was proud of the way the side came back, but it was too late.

"They are a tough side to play against when they have the ball and the penalties [are] coming for them," he said.

"The way the first half was going it was playing into their hands. Just with the penalties and kicking into the corner, and mauling the ball.

"But we showed some good ticker there at the end. Did not put the white flag up. Everyone is disappointed, but there were some real rays of light and we finished so well."

Ioane was a stand-out, while Adam Thomson was good in his comeback match before he was substituted on the 50-minute mark as he ran out of gas.

Otago forwards James Lentjes and Joe Latta both left the field, with Latta picking up a neck nerve problem and Lentjes suffering a head knock.

The visiting side could not get much going in the first half as it had little ball and kept conceding penalties.

It felt the wrath of referee Mike Fraser's whistle far too often.

It scored its only try of the first half after winger Henry Purdy made a nice break off an inside ball and was just lowered.

From the resulting scrum, the ball was passed wide and winger Jona Nareki stepped inside his marker and went across.

The visiting team then gained a man advantage when Hawke's Bay pivot, Lincoln McClutchie, was yellow carded for knocking the ball down.

But Hawke's Bay dominated the next 10 minutes, scoring 10 points, and went into the break 17-7 ahead.

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