Otago's accuracy embarrasses Auckland

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Thursday, September 21, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

It wasn't just the loss, it was the manner of the loss where a dysfunctional lineout resulted in ball turned over consistently, while the counter-rucking of the Otago pack suggested an earlier era in the game when the ruck ruled.

Complementing that was some stunning Otago midfield defence which negated the All Blacks experience of George Moala and Malakai Fekitoa in the Auckland backline. In fact, a head blow suffered by Fekitoa ended his night 15 minutes into the game when he was tackled by his marker Sio Tomkinson.

Otago struck early when Tomkinson, who had an outstanding game, pulled off an intercept in the second minute to rock Auckland who had been building through 12 phases in a concerted start. Fullback Fletcher Smith added the conversion and moments later added a penalty goal.

But then Auckland struck back when building play from a lineout after a penalty. When play was held up a scrum was ordered and No.8 Jerome Kaino charged to just short of the line where second five-eighths George Moala dashed in and rolled his way over for the try.

In the subsequent play, after a turnover resulting from the Fekitoa tackle, Otago poured through onto the ball and raced into the Auckland 22m area. The forwards had their turn at pick and going their way over the line, but when released to the backs wing Jona Nareki who found a way through to score.

Auckland struggled to make the best of its lineout chances at times, but when they got it right, usually from penalty kicks to the corner they made an impact.

It was from such a lineout that a good set-up was rewarded when from a resulting mid-field ruck, hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate at first receiver lobbed a perfectly-weighted short pass to fullback Jordan Trainor, whose longer pass gave wing Vince Aso all the room to score.

But the lineout inconsistency was seen when another poor lineout throw gave Otago a scrum and when wing Mitchell Scott kicked on the blindside, he saw Trainor caught in two minds out from his line. He was snaffled and from the turnover Otago moved the ball with a ruck in front of the posts ending in a try for lock Josh Furno.

Having enjoyed a 57 percent territory advantage and 64 percent possession Auckland's failure to take chances in the first half was obvious and continued into the second when their confidence was demonstrated in a set-piece play.

From a scrum in Auckland's 22m area, Otago proved the ball will always beat the man when three passes from the scrum undid Auckland's defence and provided the easiest of tries for Nareki.

Auckland had the hope of a possible bonus point for losing within seven points when Moala scored his second with five minutes remaining but, almost predictably, Otago struck back off another Auckland mistake with Tomkinson scoring his second.

In their quest for another try, Malani Nanai got close to the goal-line and his in-pass was batted dead in the in-goal area and referee Glen Jackson awarded a penalty try to end the game which gave Auckland a four-try bonus point.
The missed dropped goal conversion attempt to Moala's second try ultimately proved disastrous in denying Auckland a second bonus point for the margin.

Scorers: Otago 34 (Sio Tomkinson 2, Jona Nareki 2, Josh Furno tries; Fletcher Smith 3 con, pen) Auckland 26 (George Moala 2, Vince Aso tries, penalty try; Jono Hickey 2 con). HT: 24-14