Rugby: Otago storm home over Tasman

By Steve Hepburn of the Otago Daily Times

The best for Otago was Japanese halfback Fumiaki Tanaka. Photo / Getty Images.
The best for Otago was Japanese halfback Fumiaki Tanaka. Photo / Getty Images.

There may be plenty of critics of the ITM Cup - too many games, too few spectators, poor defence, but what the heck - it is damn entertaining.

Otago and Tasman fought out a game which had almost everything at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight.

Otago won 39-13, coming home with 36 unanswered points as the wheels fell off the Tasman machine.

But the Makos really added plenty to a game which was all action.

There were tries from everywhere, bravery under pressure and some outstanding attacking football.

Maybe the short turnarounds do help the attack of teams, as defence in many ITM Cup teams appears to be very much a second priority.

This game was literally all over the place. Played at 100km/h, the oxygen bottles would have been out after the game such was the energy expended by both teams.

Otago deserved to win because it absorbed heaps of Tasman pressure, in the end lapping it up, to win going away.

Just to throw in the dramatic mix, referee Glen Jackson was forced off with a leg injury after 55 minutes and local boy Adam Morrison had a baptism of fire, forced to officiate in the middle for the rest of the game.

Tasman looked as though it would simply stroll to victory after scoring within a minute of the first whistle.

It was in control and it was a one way story in the opening patches.

But Otago never gave in and scrambled well on defence in the first period, which in the end was critical in the final wash-up.

It was down by 10 points with five minutes left in the first half, but got a try in the dying stages of the first half which raised confidence levels.

Those levels went through the roof at the start of the second half Otago winger Marshall Suckling helped himself to two tries within the first 10 minutes of the second half as Otago went in front and stayed there.

The best for Otago was Japanese halfback Fumiaki Tanaka. He constantly found the man in the right position, kicked expertly and sparked many Otago attacks.

He is heading back to his home country after the season but a Super 15 franchise may show some interest.

Also good for Otago was lock Tom Franklin, prop Liam Coltman and flanker Gareth Evans.

Tasman winger Peter Betham was dangerous, and flanker Shane Christie was busy The visitors had an absolute monopoly of possession in the opening 15 minutes and should have had more than five points to show for its efforts.

Otago came back and grabbed a bit of ball but its game was punctured by errors in the first half.

Tasman then scored its second try through first five-eighth Hayden Cripps and the visitors had a healthy 13-3 lead and were looking comfortable.

But Otago managed to get some ball and got across the line thanks to centre Jayden Spence.

That try was just a prelude of things to come and the win pushes Otago into second place on the championship ladder.

Otago 39 (Marshall Suckling 2, Jayden Spence, Tony Ensor, Peter Breen tries, Hayden Parker 4 con, 2 pen)Tasman 13 (Andrew Goodman, Hayden Cripps tries, Cripps pen) Otago (Jayden Spence try, Hayden Parker con, pen)

Halftime: 13-10 Tasman

ODT

- Otago Daily Times

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