ITM Cup - Round 2
Otago break Auckland duck
ESPNscrum Staff
July 20, 2011

Otago overcame Auckland at Eden Park for the first time in 35 years, winning 32-25 on Wednesday.

Otago, who were 15-9 down at half-time shocked the hosts with a three try blitz in nine second-half minutes, despite being down to 14 men. Both sides managed to cross the whitewash on three occasions however Otago's Glenn Dickson's personal total of 22 points proved to be enough between the two sides.

Auckland's All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko crossed the line twice in the first-half to make amends on the scoreboard for fly-half Gareth Anscombe's horror show from the tee. However, Auckland errors proved to be enough for Otago to stay in touch with Dickson knocking over three first-half penalties in response.

Otago had prop Halani Aulika sin-binned early in the second-half but despite their numerical disadvantage, they soon crossed the line for their first try of the match when TJ Ioane collected the ball from the back of a line-out and raced 20 metres to grab the five points. Dickson, after adding the extras, scored himself diving into the corner to extend Otago's lead to 27-18.

Following Buxton Popalii's try moments later, Otago looked destined for a historical victory. However, Auckland rallied and struck back through prop Pauliasi Manu and thought they had done enough to earn the draw, but Chris Lowrey's try was disallowed as the referee deemed Rokocoko's pass to be forward.

In Wednesday's other fixture, Counties Manukau despatched Manawatu 32-25 and had fly-half James Semple to thank after the fly-half ended the game with 22 points.

Although they outscored Counties three tries to two, Manawatu paid the price for ill-discipline, conceding too many penalties within kicking distance. Semple obliged by slotting all over with metronomic regularity and only missed one of his nine attempts at the posts.

Manawatu began the game strongly, an Aaron Cruden penalty inside the first five minutes giving them the early lead. Barely four minutes later, quick hands from the pick and go combined with some average defence from Counties Manukau for Manawatu lock Mike Fitzgerald to power over. Two Semple penalties kept the home team in touch, then Counties Manukau worked through 25-plus phases to set the platform for fullback Sherwin Stowers to finish in style.

Manawatu replied after some magic Tomasi Cama footwork at the 30-minute mark put winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma into space and over for the try. Cruden and Semple swapped penalties, and the lead, with Semple having the last say going into halftime to give Counties Manukau a 19-18 lead.

Counties defensive pressure continued to stifle Manawatu's attacking options in the second-half, and they were rewarded after 15 minutes with an excellent try to second five-eighth Reynold Lee-Lo which was set up after Stowers pounced on the loose ball from a turnover. Despite being down to 14 men, Manawatu centre Lewis Marshall dived over soon after to cut the deficit.

Ahead 32-25 with 20 minutes to go, Counties stayed focused on defence but couldn't go past the seven-point margin. Semple had the chance with a 45m penalty at the 75-minute mark, but missed his only kick of the match to keep Manawatu's faint hopes of a draw alive right until the final whistle.

North Harbour ran in five tries in a second-half blitz of Tasman to secure a 39-15 win in Albany on Tuesday.

Guilty last week of not finishing against Otago, Harbour looked to be heading down the same path when they could manage only two first-half penalties and trailed Tasman 6-15 at the break.

Tasman secured first points, courtesy of an Andrew Goodman penalty after just three minutes but took a further 25 minutes before they managed to breach the Harbour line despite a wealth of possession and territory. After forcing a turnover in the middle of the park, the visitors moved the ball wide, wing Lucky Mulipola swerved into space before finding fullback Robbie Malneek who cut back and crossed for the five-pointer. Twelve minutes later No 8 Mark Bright made it two.

However, it was a new-look North Harbour who stepped out in the second-half, running in four tries in the space of 15 minutes to set up the win. Displaying a patience and ball retention not seen in the first 40 minutes, the Harbour forwards set up a solid platform for Matt Luamanu's two tries, the first coming just five minutes into the half. The backs, led by an outstanding performance from first five-eighth Ben Botica, also featured with some crisp work in attacking the Tasman line. Sevens star David Raikuna blazed through the Tasman defence for Harbour's third, and Botica set up the bonus point try on 60 minutes with a superbly timed inside pass to Ken Pisi 40 metres out.

Tasman coughed up too many turnovers and missed too many tackles to really pose Harbour a second-half threat and as they wilted, Manu Leiataua powered over for Harbour's fifth right on the full-time whistle.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Hawke's Bay bounced back from last Saturday's upset loss to Manawatu with a gritty 29-18 win over Southland in their national provincial championship rugby match in Napier on Tuesday.

Ahead 13-6 at half-time, Hawke's Bay worked hard against an increasingly desperate Southland to control the closing minutes and shut out the win. The only try of the first half came just on the 20-minute mark via a piece of magic from Hawke's Bay winger Tu Umaga-Marshall.

Hawke's Bay Andrew Horrell extended the lead with a penalty two minutes into the second half, but Southland battled back five minutes later. Southalnd's Robbie Robinson conjured a try out of nothing after a kick ahead saw the ball pinballing off players before falling for the fullback to latch onto and sneak across. Southland coach David Henderson gradually brought on his big guns: first Jamie Mackintosh, then Jason Rutledge, Chris King and Josh Bekhuis as Southland looked to grind down the home team up front.

But Hawke's Bay dug deep, their forward pack gained momentum and territory, and Horrell slid through for the try after some precision passing that once again featured Umaga-Marshall. Southland steadied and pulled a try back as loose forward John Hardie bulldozed over from close in with 15 minutes remaining. The conversion narrowed Hawke's Bay's lead to 23-18, although Horrell restored it to eight shortly afterwards with an invaluable penalty, a penalty right on the 80 minute mark sealing the win.

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