Otago gets home for first win

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Sunday, September 5, 2010    Getty Images

Otago, which led 17-3 just after halftime, held on to win by one point after a committed performance by its forwards.

Alando Soakai led a fired-up forward pack in which Kees Meeuws, Halani Aulika, Brad Cameron and Charlie O’Connell all had strong games.

Glenn Dickson and Ben Smith were pivotal figures in the backline and, while this was a no-frills, performance, it was a deserved win against a Hawke's Bay side which failed to deliver.

The game was the dance of the desperates. Otago had lost all five previous games while Hawke's Bay had had only one win, against Manawatu last week.

Otago suffered a blow before kick-off when All Black discard Adam Thomson withdrew because of a neck problem and was replaced by Charlie O'Connell, who was making his run-on debut.

Otago played with the advantage of a strong wind when the match began under overcast skies before a small crowd but it was Hawkes Bay which scored first, Daniel Kirkpatrick kicking a penalty after three minutes when Halani Aulika infringed at a scrum.

Hawke's Bay seemed certain to score its first try after 13 minutes but the last pass struck centre Richard Buckman on the head.

That distinction came to Otago after 20 minutes when, from a five-metre scrum, Ryan Shortland came in from the blindside wing to confuse the defence and captain and flanker Alando Soakai scored under the posts.

Otago continued to dominate territory and, when Clint Newland was penalised at a scrum, Glenn Dickson goaled from 40 metres to extend the lead to 10-3.

Otago midfielder Andrew Parata left the field after 35 minutes after taking a heavy blow to the cheek. He was replaced by Chris Small, who played at fullback, with Ben Smith moving to centre in a reshuffled backline.

Otago had spent most of the half in Hawke's Bay territory and it would have been disappointed not to have more than a seven-point lead. It was dominant everywhere, including the breakdowns, which it won 56-29, but the Hawkes Bay defence was staunch.

Different tactics were required in the second spell, Otago needing to keep the ball in hand as it battled into the wind.

And it made the perfect start, prop Kees Meeuws smashing over for a try after three minutes after good lead-up work by Shortland and several forwards. Dickson converted and Otago was out to a 17-3 lead.

But Hawke's Bay doubled its score four minutes later when fullback Mark Jackman kicked a huge penalty from 56 metres to make it 17-6 and, when Kirkpatrick added his second to make it 17-9, it was game on.

It became a one-point game 18 minutes from the end when, after constant pressure, hooker Hika Elliot picked the ball up from the back of a ruck and brushed off a flimsy tackle from Hoani Matenga as he raced 22 metres to the posts. Kirkpatrick's conversion made it 17-16.

Kirkpatrick had a chance to give Hawkes Bay the lead 12 minutes from the end but he was unable to judge the increasingly gusty wind.

Otago tried to keep the ball in hand in the final minutes as it battled the elements and tried not to concede a penalty.

Scores were:

Otago 17 (Alando Soakai, Kees Meeuws tries; Glenn Dickson 2 con, pen) Hawke's Bay 16 (Hika Elliot try, Daniel Kirkpatrick con, 2 pen; Mark Jackman pen). HT: 10-3