Taranaki rebound for epic win
A down-and-out Taranaki, trailing 7-22 at halftime in their Air NZ Cup eighth round rugby match, rebounded to pile on 24 second half points and secure an epic 31-27 win in Dunedin tonight.
Otago lock Tom Donnelly, recovered from a recent hamstring strain played his 50th rugby game and led the forward pack in an intense first half effort. But it was openside flanker Craig Newby who opened the scoring for Otago, after a bullocking run from Eben Joubert from a wayward Willie Ripia kick-off.
Bowden converted, and it was 7-0 after five minutes. Otago continued to pressure, playing with urgency and breaking the Taranaki line regularly with well-timed passing and straight running.
Taranaki, starved of possession, hit back when they eventually got their hands on some attacking ball.
Fullback Ace Malo crossed after 12 minutes, bursting through some lightweight Otago tackling in an excellent individual try and Ripia converted to tie the scores.
A couple of minutes later, Bowden grabbed the lead back with a penalty, then fullback Glen Horton benefitted from a powerful Ross Kennedy run to make it 17-7 with the conversion after 22 minutes.
Otago kept the pressure on as the half closed, winger Karne Hesketh touching down after a crucial midfield line-break from the sweet-running Horton, leaving a demoralised Taranaki bereft of an answer as they trudged off at halftime trailing 7-22.
But whatever coach Adrian Kennedy said at halftime galvanised his team, and it was a different set of players who took the field in the second spell to secure a comeback win.
Centre Nathan Hohaia began the fightback when he crossed in the opening minutes after second five-eighth Aaron Bancroft broke the line then slipped him a perfectly timed pass.
Ripia converted, Taranaki regrouped and did it again five minutes later courtesy of winger Paul Perez.
Ripia missed that conversion, and the next one when Scott Waldrom crashed over in a classic openside flanker's try to give Taranaki the lead 24-22.
But it didn't matter, as Perez crossed for his second try, Ripia converted and Taranaki's chokehold on the second half was loosened only when it was far too late.
Otago had to wait until the 81st minute to score their only points of the half as winger Lucky Mulipola crashed over in the 81st minute to gain his side a bonus point.
Fulltime score from the Air NZ Cup rugby match between Otago and Taranki in Dunedin tonight:
Taranaki 31 (Paul Perez 2, Ace Malo, Nathan Hohaia, Scott Waldrom tries; Willie Ripia 3 con) Otago 27 (Craig Newby, Glen Horton, Karne Hesketh, Lucky Mulipola tries, Daniel Bowden 2 con, pen). Halftime: 7-22.
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