NPC : Tito's Taranaki stun Otago
August 24, 2002
An extraordinary second half performance saw Taranaki score their second win of this NPC campaign, getting up to beat Otago, last year's beaten finalists, 36-30 in New Plymouth on Saturday evening.
Trailing 19-7 at half time , and 24-7 after Kelvin Middleton's 43rd minute try, Paul Tito's men came storming back to claim the bonus point victory. In atrocious conditions, driving , horizontal rain lashing across the pitch throughout the game, Otago looked to have done enough , but the home side exploited the conditions to perfection.
The Taranaki game has traditionally been built on the rugged driving play of their forwards and tonight was no exception. Lock Tito, surely a candidate for All Black honours at the end of the year, led by uncompromising example. But he was backed up by some outstanding contributors : New Zealand Maori lock Reece Robinson was tireless and enjoyed his two tries : All Black reserve hooker Andrew Hore shaded incumbent Tom Willis and New Zealand sevens star Chris Masoe was irresistible at the back of the scrum. A typically terrier-like effort from Brendan Haami at half back kept the fires stoked and Austin and Robins were dangerous and elusive runners whenever the opportunity arose. Robins seems to get better with every game and would appear to have every chance of emulating his father's achievement in winning All Black caps.
Otago did not play badly. In the first half they seemed to have the game well under control, their game plan effectively executed by some classy performers : Blair Feeney, Taine Randell and Simon Maling to the fore. In the second spell they were simply blown away by the ferocity of the Taranaki effort.
All of Otago's first half points came from Feeney. He scored the game's opening try, slicing through a retreating defence after his forwards had done all the hard work. His conversion of that try, and four further penalties, gave him a total of 19 points. Taranaki were barely holding on, Robinson showing good pace for a lock to score his side's first try after 15 minutes , which Lilley converted.
Having to attack to retrieve a seemingly irretrievable position, Taranaki tore into Otago for the final 30 minutes. As the forward momentum increased Robinson and then Masoe claimed short range tries before Austin scored two outstanding efforts on either side of the field. The first was the culmination of the Otago defence being stretched from side to side before it finally snapped, the second an exemplary piece of back-up of a speculative kick. Haami hoisted a high up and under which bounced in-goal, full back Willie Walker was embarrassed by Austin's flying effort which saw him beat the Otago man for the touch down. Once Taranaki had the lead they never looked likely to relinquish it, a late Feeney penalty retrieving a bonus point for Otago after they looked to be leaving New Plymouth pointless.
Taranaki : 36 : Tries : Robinson ( 2 ) , Austin ( 2 ), Masoe. Conversions : Lilley ( 4 ). Penalty : Lilley.
Otago : 30 : Tries : Feeney , Middleton Conversion : Feeney Penalties : Feeney ( 6 ).
Taranaki : Daryl Lilley, Shayne Austin , Bryce Robins, Matthew Harvey, James Kerr, Mark Urwin, Brendan Haami, Chris Masoe, Neil Crowley, Brent Thompson, Reece Robinson, Paul Tito ( captain ), Gordon Slater, Andrew Hore, Tony Penn.
Subs : Daniel Smith, Jason Hooper, Scot Breman, Corey Holdaway, Denning Tyrell, Johnny Stewart, Mepi Faoagali.
Otago : Willie Walker, Neil Brew, Ryan Nicholas, Seilala Mapusua, Aisea Tuilevu, Blair Feeney, Danny Lee, Taine Randell ( captain ), Sam Harding, Kelvin Middleton, Simon Maling, Filipo Levi, Carl Hayman, Tom Willis, Carl Hoeft.
Subs : Nick Fisher, Joe McDonnell, Peter Bowden, Grant Webb, Byron Kelleher, Romi Ropati, Nick Howell.
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