muddles way to third win
By Brent Edwards
Otago sneaked victory in this mediocre
match at Carisbrook only because Bay of Plenty did not seem
to know how to win it.
Bay of Plenty's second consecutive close loss and Otago's
third consecutive win after a muddling game in which neither
side was able to seize the initiative. Otago was fortunate
to avoid its first loss to Bay of Plenty in 22 years and the
modest-sized crowd headed quickly to the exits as the final
hooter sounded. There
was a lack of concentration, cohesion and intensity from Otago
in this sloppy performance and, at times, it seemed the players'
minds were elsewhere.
scored two tries in 2min to lead 18-3 after 32min, it seemed
it was about to take the game by the scruff of the neck and
coast to a four-try bonus point win. But defensive mistakes
allowed Bay of Plenty to strike back with 10 points in the
few minutes before half-time and the game meandered for much
of the second spell. Otago did have its chances. Aisea Tuilevu
lost the ball forward close to the line after five phases,
Neil Brew knocked on after Tuilevu broke the defence with
a 30m run, and Anton Oliver was held up in goal after a line-out
drive. But Bay of Plenty scored the only try of the half 13min
from the end, wing Anthony Tahana getting his second when
he beat Tuilevu, Seilala Mapusua and Glen Horton on a 25m
run to the line.
Plenty had a golden opportunity when it forced a scrum turnover
inside the Otago 22 2min from the end but, as it attacked
for the winning try, it turned over possession itself. That
just about summed up this mistake-riddled game in which an
essentially professional team on its home ground almost lost
to an essentially amateur team. Otago missed Carl Hayman and
Simon Maling in the pack and there was some untidy work at
kick- offs, scrums and line-outs, and much aimless kicking
by the backs. It was difficult to decipher the game plan as
forwards loitered among the backs, and the backs kicked the
ball straight to the opposition and surrendered possession.
the few shining lights was flanker Josh Blackie, who has scored
six tries in five games for Otago this season and who maintained
his focus throughout. He was on the end of a long pass from
Mapusua to score the first try after he called for a quick
tap penalty, and he initiated the second after the Otago forwards
botched the ensuing kick-off. Blackie
grabbed the loose ball, linked with Tuilevu who made a long
run and, from the ruck, quick ball enabled Mapusua to burst
over close to the posts. That was the end of the highlights
package in a game few will want to remember.
Horton did well
in his first game at fullback, apart from one missed tackle.
He was courageous on defence and under the high ball, and
enterprising on attack.
Plenty coach Vern Cotter was disappointed his side did not
finish off its opportunities more efficiently but pleased
at its tenacity. "That's twice in the last two weeks
we've been down and come back to threaten at the end,"
he said. "We're
improving as a team and we want to confirm we are worthy of
our place in the first division."
Plenty wheeled Otago at several scrums, contested line-outs
strongly and, had it not made mistakes at critical times,
it could have clinched a famous victory. But the real heroes
were the spectators who stayed to the end of a game which,
for long periods, did not warrant its first division status.
- Otago 24 (Josh Blackie, Seilala Mapusua tries,
Willie Walker conversion, 4 penalty goals); Bay of Plenty
20 (Anthony Tahana 2 tries, Glen Jackson 2 conversions, 2
Match statistics: Line-outs, Otago, 16-10;
rucks and mauls, Otago, 85-64; penalties, Otago, 10-6. Kicking:
Walker, 4-6; Jackson, 4-5. Half-time: 18-13. Crowd: 5500.
Referee: Paul Honiss (Waikato).