Rugby: Otago into Mitre 10 Cup Championship final

By Campbell Burnes

Sio Tomkinson of Otago tackles Sam Cane of Bay of Plenty. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz
Sio Tomkinson of Otago tackles Sam Cane of Bay of Plenty. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz

Otago 27
Bay of Plenty 20

Otago are into their first Championship final since 2012 and will host their first decider since the famous 1998 NPC climax at Carisbrook.

From the get-go under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Otago sought to move the ball and keep it alive. It was rugby not without risks, especially against a tenacious Steamers outfit, but they took a 14-6 lead into the break and were always ahead of the game.

The Otago pack were well led by lock Tom Franklin, in his 50th match for the union - though he blotted his copybook in the second spell with an ugly no arms charge on Dan Hollinshead - and loose forward James Lentjes. Both scored tries and both were heavily involved.

The scrum battle was torrid, but Otago ultimately held the advantage in that area and in the collisions, where their defence was heavy.

Franklin scored the opening try after some patient lead-up work, and then first five Fletcher Smith fired a sweet cutout pass to put the prolific Naulia Dawai over for his sixth score of 2016. When Lentjes hustled over off a lineout drive, it was 21-6 and Otago were in the box seat. But Steamers centre Lalakai Foketi and replacement Terence Hepetema crossed and the visitors hung in grimly. Franklin's yellow card, however, did not yield any points for the Steamers in that 10-minute period.

There was some amusement for the crowd when replacement Scott Eade popped the ball with a hefty left-foot clearance late on.

All Blacks loosie Sam Cane subbed on after halftime for Bay of Plenty in just his 19th game for his province. He emerged unscathed, if rusty, in his first run for six weeks following a hamstring injury against the Pumas last month in Hamilton. The Reporoa man should be good to go on the northern tour.

After three consecutive Championship semifinal defeats and some financial struggles, it appears Otago may again be ready to join the big guns of our provincial game.

Otago 27 (Tom Franklin, Naulia Dawai, James Lentjes tries; Fletcher Smith 3 con, pen, Scott Eade pen) Bay of Plenty 20 (Lalakai Foketi, Terence Hepetema tries; Dan Hollinshead con, 2 pen, Te Aihe Toma con) HT: 14-6

- NZ Herald

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