NPC : Feeney kicks Otago to win in Dunedin
August 17, 2002
In miserable conditions at Carisbrook on Saturday evening, Otago , beaten finalists in 2001, got their NPC campaign going with a workmanlike 21-12 victory over Northland.
This was a game that neither side really dominated for any substantial periods of time. Otago had more composure at crucial moments and better players in crucial positions, but the ruggedness of the Northland forward play always enabled them to compete effectively.
Blair Feeney and Danny Lee moved south from Counties-Manukau in the off season and proved more than adequate deputies for Tony Brown and Byron Kelleher, the former injured, the latter returning from All Black duty. With both sides scoring two tries, it was Feeney's goalkicking that was ultimately one of the crucial differences between the sides. Willie Walker at full back was always dangerous on the counter and Aisea Tuilevu a menacing poacher. The Otago back row of Randell, Harding and Middleton was mightily effective and Filipo Levi a grafter in the second row.
For Northland, no8 Tim Henwood was the pick of the forwards , although Allen Tubbs is a much underrated player , his work rate and opportunism again bagging him two tries. Fly half was always going to be a problem position and so it proved tonight. Jared Going had his moments but was also fallible at crucial times. Hayden Taylor at full back also made too many errors which put his side under pressure.
An early Feeney penalty , Harding try and Feeney conversion built up a comfortable lead for Otago after 25 minutes but this provoked the best passage of play from Northland. 17 phases of play created the pressure which resulted in Tubbs burrowing over for the first of his tries. His side then had enough of the play to have narrowed the gap still further but lack of composure and finesse cost them dearly.
Otago extended the lead with a Tuilevu try after 43 minutes and another Feeney penalty. Immediately from the kick off, however, Tubbs gathered the ball after sloppy Otago defence and sprinted away unopposed for his second try. The conversion narrowed the gap to 6 points and raised the possibility of another round one upset. But Feeney kicked his third penalty to give his side the cushion and they coasted home in the closing stages.
So plenty for both sets of coaches to work on. Otago can only get better and have real quality in their side. Northland have positions where they are relatively weak and will need to do some careful thinking to plug the gaps.
Otago : 21 Tries : Harding , Tuilevu Conversion : Feeney Penalty : Feeney ( 3 )
Northland : 12 Tries : Tubbs ( 2 ) Conversion : Going
Otago : Willie Walker, Neil Brew, Ryan Nicholas, Seilala Mapusua, Aisea Tuilevu, Blair Feeney, Danny Lee, Taine Randell ( captain ), Sam Harding, Kelvin Middleton, Warren Smith, Filipo Levi, Carl Hayman, Nick Fisher, Carl Hoeft.
Subs : Tom Willis, Nick Moore, Tom Donnelly, Grant Webb, Corey Brown, Romi Ropati, Nick Howell.
Northland : Hayden Taylor, Fero Lasagavibau, Jason Shoemark, Robbie Johnson, Jason Hita, Jared Going, Sam Pinder, Tim Henwood, Allen Tubbs, Brett Waaka, Glenn Taylor ( captain ), Vula Maimuri, Con Barrell, Derren Witcombe, Mike Storey.
Subs : Jason Hammond, Bronson Murray, Brad Taylor, Aaron Wright / Nisifolo Naufahu, Lee Peina, Regan Finch, Paul Staladi.
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