Counties Manukau were made to work hard before securing a 16-14 victory over a spirited Otago side in Dunedin on Saturday
In a tightly contested affair momentum between the two sides ebbed and flowed throughout but it was Counties who got the rub of the green in the end when their replacement fly-half Joe Reynolds slotted a late penalty which secured their victory.
The visitors made a bright start and after Piers Francis missed an early penalty, Counties captain Jimmy Tupou crossed for the opening try in the 12th minute after trading passes with Viliame Rarasea.
Otago struck back midway through the half when Craig Millar dotted from close quarters but a Francis penalty in the 36th minute gave Counties a 10-7 lead at half-time.
Francis missed two penalties early in the second half, before Naulia Dawai scored Otago's second try after a thrilling run in the 52nd minute.
The home side's discipline cost them, however, and two penalties from Reynolds in the final quarter clinched Counties' victory.
Tries: Dawai, Millar
Cons: Eade 2
For Counties Manukau:
Pens: Francis, Reynolds 2
Otago: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Mitchell Scott, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Fa'asiu Fuata'i, 10 Scott Eade, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Naulia Dawai, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Adam Knight, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Blair Tweed, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Sam Anderson-Heather (c), 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Sekonaia Pole, 17 Jonah Aoina, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Sione Teu, 21 Kaide Whiting, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
Counties Manukau: 15 Luteru Laulala, 14 Sione Fifita, 13 Sam Vaka, 12 Cardiff Vaega, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Richard Judd, 8 Sootala Fa'aso'o, 7 Jordan Taufua, 6 Jimmy Tupou (c), 5 Matiaha Martin, 4 Viliame Rarasea, 3 Kalolo Tuiloma, 2 Gafatasi Su'a, 1 Sean Bagshaw
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sione Faletau, 19 Matt Vaai, 20 Joshua Dowling, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Joe Reynolds, 23 Toni Pulu
Referee: Nick Briant