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Otago clinch Championship playoff berth

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Saturday, October 14, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

The win means that Wellington, Bay of Plenty and Otago are confirmed in the semifinals with either Manawatu or Northland to take the final spot.

It has been a horror season for Southland and they would have needed a complete form turnaround to test Otago under the roof. They brought plenty of passion and intensity, but it just simply wasn’t enough against an Otago side that were better across the park – and particularly upfront.

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With ball in hand, Southland were committed and probing, but it was in the set-piece where they really struggled with the Razorbacks holding the edge at scrum, line out and maul time.

There was little to separate the sides in the opening fifteen minutes, but once Otago wing Mitchell Scott crossed for a stunning solo try, Otago took a stranglehold on the game.

With their pack holding the advantage, the Otago backline began to challenge the Southland defence and tries to Jona Nareki and Sio Tomkinson stretched the lead out to 22-5 at the break.

Halfback Jonathan Ruru was one of Otago’s best, and laid on the bonus point try early in the second half with a brilliant skip pass to midfielder Tei Walden.



Southland struck back when Lewis Ormond got his double following a steady forward build-up. But in what has been indicative of their season, they struggled to back it up when a player was yellow carded shortly after.

The game opened up in the final 20 minutes as referee Angus Mabey tried hard to contain the increasing niggle between the two sides.

Otago grabbed two more tries to Latu Vaeno and reserve front rower Jonah Aiona while Southland crossed for a consolation try to James Schrader.

In the end the margin of 43-19 was a fair reflection on what was a dominant display by Otago.

Otago captain Sam Anderson-Heather said: “The recipe was simple today – win with a bonus point to get into the semifinals. I’m really proud of the effort, it wasn’t perfect though so there is a bit to work.”

SCORERS:
Otago 43 (Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Tei Walden, Latu Vaeno, Jonah Aoina tries, Josh Ioane 5 con, pen ) Southland 19 (Lewis Ormond 2, James Schrader tries, Scott Eade con, Greg Dyer con)
HT: 22-5