Otago - NPC News - 2001

Feast of tries as Otago overwhelms Southland
By Brent Edwards

Invercargill: Otago might have silenced the Stags but there was no roaring from coach Laurie Mains after Southland was overwhelmed 53-20 at Rugby Park yesterday.

Otago scored seven tries to three to retain its unbeaten record and join Auckland in second equal place
after three rounds of the national championship. While Mains was satisfied Otago claimed maximum points and posted a half-century of points against its oldest rival - the third time it had done so in the NPC - he was quick to note the shortcomings. Otago played like a dream to lead 17-3 after 12 minutes, and again in the first 10 minutes of the second spell when, after a rev-up from Mains, it added two tries - both by barnstorming No 8 Paul Miller - to extend the lead to an unassailable 36-13. At other times it played as if it was in a dream, as its intensity slackened on this sunny, crisp Invercargill day.

Otago made an immediate statement, Miller scoring the first of his three tries after eight minutes and the
irrepressible Brendan Laney joining him on the scoresheet four minutes later. It was well-executed textbook rugby, the pack providing the impetus and forwards and backs linking in some exhilarating continuity play. When honest toiling lock John Blaikie scored a rare try - Miller cutting a 35m swathe through the defence and captain Tom Willis providing the last pass - Otago led 24-8 after 21 minutes and a rout seemed imminent.

But Otago rather lost its focus after that and it needed some straight talking from Mains to get minds on the
job again at half-time. Seilala Mapusua danced past three tacklers to set up Miller's second try early in the second spell and Otago "won" the half 29-0 before Jason Tiatia secured a consolation try for Southland in the last minute. "It wasn't a great performance but you've got to be happy when you score 50 points in the first division, I suppose," Mains said later. "But we've got quite a bit to attend to before we play Counties next week, because we didn't play as well as we did against Northland - there wasn't quite the urgency. "Obviously, we're happy to get the five points but we let our game go away after the first quarter - I'm not
happy with that. I was pleased with the first 20 minutes but we lost a bit of our shape and structure after
that. "The guys thought it was going to be a bit easy after that and we just went away from our pattern. We got back to it for the first 10 minutes of the second half and we got untidy again. We just lost a bit of intensity in the forwards." However, Mains is pleased at the attitude of his young players. "They've taken on the responsibility and worked really hard to get up to NPC standard. They've taken some
of the pressure off the returning All Blacks." Mains has been told Tony Brown, Byron Kelleher and Carl Hayman will be available for the game against Counties, but is unsure about the return of the other All Blacks, among whom Taine Randell (damaged medial knee ligaments) and Jeff Wilson (calf muscle) are both recovering from injuries.

Laney again had the Midas touch from first five-eighth yesterday, controlling play expertly and contributing
28 points, including two tries and eight goals from nine attempts. The second came when he sprinted 80m after a breakdown in the Southland backline and there is an enthusiasm and confidence about his play that some All Blacks are lacking. Flanker Sam Harding had a strong all-round game. Kees Meeuws worked industriously and captain Tom Willis again provided strong leadership by example until he left the field after a blow to the throat 20 minutes from the end.

The Southland pack gained more than its share of possession, flanker Des Tuiavii, hooker Corey Flynn and
locks Brendon Timmins and Steve Jackson the most prominent. But, while left wing Kuka Asolupe scored a lovely try after a long cut-out pass from Earl Va'a, the backs struggled for fluency, and the possession was not put to good use. It was Southland's second consecutive heavy home defeat and it needs some inspiration as well as perspiration to turn around a difficult season.

Scores were: Otago 53 (Paul Miller, 3, Brendan Laney, 2, John Blaikie, Hayden Reid tries, Laney 6 conversions, 2 penalty goals); Southland 20 (Kuka Asolupe, Brendon Timmins, Jason Tiatia tries, Ashley Barron conversion, Earl Va'a penalty goal).

Match statistics: Line-outs, Southland, 16-8; rucks and mauls, Southland, 74-58; penalties, Southland, 10-6. Kicking: Laney, 8-9; Va'a, 1-2; Barron, 1-2. Half-time: 24-13. Crowd: About 7500. Referee: Bryce Lawrence (Bay of Plenty).


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