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The Otago women’s team overcame a poor start to win the third and fourth playoff, again in Timaru.
The Otago men’s team was playing a straight round robin against five other teams, with only one team missing out on qualification.
Otago ran through its first four games with victories, including an impressive win over Southland 21-10 and then putting away Canterbury 24-10.
It then took on Tasman in its final game and if it had won, it would have qualified top of the ladder.
It led 10-0 at one stage but was run down in the second half to go down 15-10.
That left Canterbury, Tasman and Otago all on 13 points, as the sides had beaten each other. Canterbury, though, had the better points differential, just ahead of Tasman, with Otago back in third.
Southland qualified fourth because it had a better points differential than South Canterbury or Mid Canterbury, all three teams finishing on seven points. Mid Canterbury was the unlucky team to miss out.
Otago could consider itself unlucky against Tasman.
Tasman had a man yellow-carded for a shoulder charge but it was a clear red card and a couple of bounces of the ball did not go its way in the second half.
Otago captain Taylor Haugh had a huge tournament. He scored a couple of runaway tries against Canterbury to win the game and he showed some blinding speed off the mark. His defence was also first-rate and he was a very effective sweeper.
Others to impress included rugged forward Charles Elton, while Connor Newlands also worked hard. Halfback Kieran McClea injured his leg, which limited his play later in the tournament.
A higher placing at the regional tournament helps get a better draw at the national tournament in Tauranga in two weeks.
The Otago women started off poorly with a surprise 24-17 loss to Southland, but then managed to draw against Canterbury. It faced a critical game against Tasman and thanks to some rampaging running from Kilisitina Moata’ane, the side got up to win 22-17 after leading 12-5 at the break.
Moata’ane was hard to stop with the ball in hand, while Amy du Plessis showed speed out wide, as did Trisha Hopcroft.
The Otago side faced off against Southland in the playoff for third and the final spot to qualify. Otago started well and led 15-0 at halftime. Southland got it back to 15-14 but some speed and skill from Du Plessis led to Otago winning 27-14. Coach Aimee Sutorius was forced to play and picked up a vital try in the game against Southland.
It was a spirited showing from the Southland women, who showed some enterprise on attack and courage on defence.
Two other regional tournaments took place on Saturday with 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams set to play in Tauranga.