North Harbour 23-37 Otago, ITM Cup
Razorbacks boost play-off hopes
October 5, 2013
Date/Time: Oct 5, 2013, 17:35 local, 04:35 GMT
Venue: North Harbour Stadium, North Shore City
North Harbour 23 - 37 Otago
Half-time: 13 - 23
Tries: Helleur, Saili
Cons: Elrick 2
Pens: Elrick 3
Tries: Anderson-Heather, Ensor, Evans, Spence
Cons: Breen, Parker 3
Pens: Parker 3
Otago's Lee Allan makes a break, North Harbour v Otago, ITM Cup, North Harbour Stadium, Albany, October 5, 2013
Lee Allan was strong for Otago
© Getty Images
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Otago boosted their hopes of making the ITM Cup Championship play-offs with a bonus-point victory over North Harbour, and victory against either Northland or Auckland in their final two matches will secure their berth.

The Razorbacks were always in control against a home team that played with spirit but without the thrust to break the visitors' defence. Otago always looked the more competent side, with flanker Lee Allan prominent throughout and tight forwards lock Tom Franklin, hooker Liam Coltman and prop Scott Manson strong in phase play. Bench players TJ Ioane and Aki Seuli also made strong impressions, the pair key in building on frome work from replacement scrum-half Josh Renton's to set up Gareth Evans for the critical bonus-point try 10 minutes from full-time.

Jayden Spence gave Otago the perfect start when he capped fine build-up work to cross in the second minute. North Harbour rebounded positively, making good ground, but they could muster only a penalty goal from John Elrick.

Hayden Parker kicked three penalty goals before Tony Ensor scored Otago's second try after a superb ruck steal by Tom Franklin created a chance for Spence to set up a ruck on the left; Fumiaki Tanaka delayed his choice of options and set off through a gap to feed Parker, who Ensor in support for the fullback to score behind the posts.

North Harbour struck back immediately with a superb demonstration of Francis Saili's potential as a Test prospect. He received ball at speed from a set-piece, fended Spence with a powerful push and accelerated to bring North Harbour within 10 points at the break.

North Harbour scored the only points in the third quarter, a penalty goal, but they needed more to quell Otago's spirit - especially after Ioane enlivened play in the loose exchanges. That was apparent in the 61st minute, when he featured prominently in support play after a quick lineout just outside North Harbour's 22: replacement hooker Sam Anderson-Heather rumbled over on the blindside of a ruck to kill North Harbour's hopes of a comeback.

Evans then score the bonus-point try before North Harbour gained late consolation through Brenton Helleur, who scored after Irwin Finau had charged onto a ball and fed Alex Woonton to set up a ruck short of the line.

Francis Saili was strong for North Harbour © Getty Images
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