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Otago take last gasp stunner over Hawke's Bay

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Saturday, October 20, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

They will venture north to Hamilton to play Waikato, the team they took the Ranfurly Shield off two weeks ago, in Friday's final.

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It was a tough result for Hawke's Bay who had been heroic in their defence until the last 10 minutes when Otago were able to find some attacking rhythm although there were elements of the flukish to Otago's success in the final moments.

After Otago scored through second five-eighths Sio Tomkinson with eight minutes to play Hawke's Bay opted to try and shut the game down from a long time out, nearly seven minutes but after 19 phases they coughed up a penalty when replacement hooker Liam Coltman won the right at the breakdown but Ioane's shot fell just short with two minutes left.

But from the 22m drop out, fullback and captain Michael Collins, playing his 50th game for Otago, raced into a gap and tore down the middle of the field before sending a kick to the right where a flukish inside pass attempt by wing Mitchell Scott rebounded off the heel of a Hawke's Bay defender and into touch.

Otago attempted a maul but Hawke's Bay lock Tom Parsons was ruled offside in the maul and under advantage a Josh Renton dropped goal attempt missed so the advantage was applied for Renton's second attempt at goal. This time he made no mistake.

Having made an impressive start to the game with two tries in the first 12 minutes, Hawke's Bay maintained pressure on Otago by rush defence on their backline to restrict their ability to release the speed on their flanks. 

Flanker Gareth Evans was a constant presence with good support from fellow loose forwards Geoff Cridge and Marino Mikaele Tu'u. First five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie demonstrated developing ability and one superb second half break looked to have provided a try for wing Jonah Lowe, but he stepped into touch, a moment before putting the ball over the goal-line.



But fullback Jamie-Jerry Taulagi was an ever-present danger whenever given room to move.

At the same time Otago had hard workers of their own with No.8 Dylan Nel and lock Josh Dickson the hardest works for the Ranfurly Shield holders. Tomkinson, centre Matt Faddes and Collins were persistent in their efforts to break down the Bay defences.

Taulagi didn't only show his skill in goal-kicking. It was his penalty kick from within his own half that found touch just out from Otago's line which allowed Hawke's Bay to mount a lineout drive, at their second attempt, which saw Mikaele Tu'u to score three minutes into the game.

Taulagi returned a downfield kick from Tomkinson and found flying wing Mason Emerson whose speed took him around the defence and when confronted he had halfback Brad Weber inside and he ran in unopposed for the easiest of tries in the 12th minute.

Otago finally got over the goalline in the 49th minutes, first five-eighths Josh Ioane having landed a penalty goal in the first half, but it was only after they missed several chances on either side of the field before replacement flanker James Lentjes slipped a pass on the right flank to wing Mitchell Scott.

More time on attack looked set to provide an inevitable try for Otago but out of nothing Hawke's Bay created a chance. Wing Stacy Ili's footwork on the left wing created a chance for him to use his speed to make ground before having Emerson perfectly placed inside him to run his side to a 19-10 lead.

Otago, again, got back into the attacking zone and several times opted, when penalties were provided, to take the set-piece option rather than kicking for goal and in the 72nd minute a scrum out from the line provided a blindside chance for Tomkinson to run the perfect line to get over unchallenged.

Scorers: Otago 20 (Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson tries; Josh Ioane 2 con, 2 pen) Hawke's Bay 19 (Marino Mikaele Tu'u, Brad Weber, Mason Emerson tries; Jamie-Jerry Taulagi 2 con). HT: 3-14