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Waikato overpower Otago

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Sunday, August 14, 2011    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Building on their midweek win over champions Canterbury, the home side had to protect a five-point halftime advantage into a stiff breeze and was somehow able to confound the southerners' dominance in territory and possession.

The visitors were rewarded for some early enterprise when Mooloo skipper Toby Lynn infringed at a breakdown in the fourth minute and second-five Glen Dixon kicked a handy penalty.

But Waikato first-five Stephen Donald responded in kind, benefiting from the tail wind to slot a penalty from his own side of halfway. Within minutes, the home side won an attacking lineout, fullback Trent Renata was up to make the midfield break and wing Henry Speight was on hand for the opening try in the right-hand corner.

In the 24th minute, Donald found some space close to the scrum, flipped a clever backhand pass to second-five Jackson Willison in support and he found halfback Brendon Leonard, in his 50th appearance for Waikato, steaming up outside him for the second try.

But Otago spent long periods camped on their opponents' goal line and were eventually rewarded when wing Buxton Popoali'i ducked and dove through the defence for a touchdown just before halftime.

The southerners had dominated the key statistics over the opening 40 minutes and, with the prospect of that breeze behind them over the second half, probably fancied their chances of upsetting the premiership contenders.

Those hopes will have soared when they stole the ball on their own line and went the length of the field to turn desperate defence into red-hot attack. Wing Matt Faddes was dragged out in the corner, but Otago consistently let themselves down through infringements and turnovers that allowed Waikato to ease the pressure.

Former All Black flanker Mary Holah was a colossus in the loose, repeatedly frustrating his rivals at the breakdown. Waikato finally took a firm grip on the game when wing Tim Mikkelson sparked a counterattack and sevens star Declan O'Donnell crossed in the left corner.

The home team then secured the bonus-point try when officials ruled hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone had sneaked across in the same corner under a pile of forwards.

Waikato have now won four games in a row and improved their record to 5-2 for the season, a point clear of Taranaki atop the premiership table. Otago have now lost four of their last five outings and are 3-4 for the season, mid-table in the championship competition.

Scorers:

Waikato 25 (Henry Speight, Brendon Leonard, Declan O'Donnell, Marcel Cummings-Toone tries; Stephen Donald con, pen) Otago 10 (Buxton Popoali'i; Glenn Dickson con, pen). HT: 15-10