Rugby: Otago triumphs at Eden Park

The Otago team celebrates after beating Auckland 32-25 last night.
The Otago team celebrates after beating Auckland 32-25 last night.
A win at Eden Park - finally. Otago broke a generation-long drought last night when it beat Auckland 32-25 at Eden Park.

•  'Record had to be broken'

It was Otago's first win at the ground since way back in 1976, and it had to do it coming from behind, rattling on 20 points with prop Halani Aulika in the sin bin.

The last time Otago won in Auckland, players were still wearing white laces and black boots, and no-one got paid for playing.

Over those 35 years it has journeyed to Auckland 21 times for 21 losses, but it managed to finish in front last night.

With the victory, Otago also won the Lin Colling Memorial Trophy, which it has never won since it was presented to mark the late former All Black, Auckland and Otago halfback in 2005.

Otago flanker TJ Ioane reaches out to score during the ITM Cup match against Auckland last night.
Otago flanker TJ Ioane reaches out to score during the ITM Cup match against Auckland last night.
It also marked a great start for Otago in the new-look championship after it kicked off the season with a 46-29 victory over North Harbour last Thursday night.

This is a season of redemption for Otago, which suffered the ignominy of finishing dead last in the 14-team ITM Cup last year.

Coach Phil Mooney was given a co-coach, Andy Hunter, and the broom was swept through the playing roster.

Some of the new blood was on show last night, with one of the stars being young flanker TJ Ioane.

Barely out of his teens, Ioane was forced to enter the game when starting blindside flanker Regan Tamihere pulled out with a hamstring injury.

Ioane looked erratic at first - he dropped a restart clean - but his confidence started to grow with every bullocking run.

He looks a genuine talent, and with rising stars like Gareth Evans and Buxton Popoali'i also starting to shine, the future looks a whole lot rosier for Otago.

But at halftime, Otago was battling on most fronts, having made twice the tackles of Auckland, and behind on the percentage stakes on territory and possession.

Fullback Glenn Dickson had kept Otago in the hunt with three penalties, but it had a sense of Auckland's game to lose at the interval. But three tries from the 54th to 63rd minutes upended the host side and Otago's spirit shone in the form of spirited late defence to see the job through.

Ioane gathered a loose ball when a lineout play went wrong - and fortuitously off a nudge forward by a team-mate at the set piece - and charged irresistibly through four tackles to the line.

Dickson went in, then out, past Vili Waqaseduadua and shook off Winston Stanley en route to the right-hand corner; and when Popoali'i, Otago's liveliest back, gathered an ordinary chip kick ahead and sprinted 40m down the left-hand touch, past poor defence, Otago had sprouted wings.

Replacement prop Pauliasi Manu squeezed across the Otago line nine minutes from the end to raise Auckland's hopes.

But with veteran first five-eighth Tony Brown running the cutter tidily, Dickson a heavy contributor with 22 points, and the pack energetically led by Eben Joubert, it was Otago's night.

Auckland lost captain Daniel Braid with a nasty eye injury in the second half, courtesy of a stray hand from team-mate Richard Haddon.

Otago will have little time to celebrate before meeting Hawkes Bay in Napier on Sunday.

It seems greedy to ask for a third straight win. But Otago, following the Highlanders' lead, has given its fans renewed cause for optimism.

• First five-eighth James Semple kicked Counties-Manukau to a 32-25 win over Manawatu in an ITM Cup match in Pukekohe last night, NZPA reports.

Although it out-scored Counties three tries to two, Manawatu paid the price for ill-discipline, conceding too many penalties within kicking distance. Semple obliged with metronomic regularity, ending the game with 22 points in missing only one of his nine kicks at goal.

- Additional reporting by the NZ Herald 


Otago 32
TJ Ioane, Glenn Dickson, Buxton Popoali'i tries; Dickson 5 pen, con
Auckland 25
Joe Rokocoko 2, Pauliasi Manu tries; Gareth Anscombe 2 pen, 2 con

Halftime: Auckland 15-9




Add a Comment