Taranaki kept their Air New Zealand Cup hopes alive after recording a 38-10 victory over Otago at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday.
Taranaki managed to keep their Air NZ Cup hopes alive after recording a much-needed 38-10 victory over Otago at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday.
With both these outfits languishing at the wrong end of the standings before kick-off, this clash held huge significance due to the fact its loser would fall out of the play-off reckoning.
And despite Otago having drawn first blood after Adam Thomson had set up scrum-half Sean Romans to sneak over with Glen Dickson converting, an impressive second-half onslaught from the hosts proved decisive in the end.
Their scores came through Paul Perez, two from Tony Penn and Nemia Soqeta to leave the 'Naki in the chasing pack behind Hawke's Bay, Wellington and Southland, with Canterbury already assured of their knockout berth.
Several had predicted Otago to pose a more serious threat on Saturday but in truth they were well beaten up front, with Ben Souness and makeshift flank Jason Eaton proving to be constant thorns in their side.
However, the performance of in-form fly-half Willie Ripia also played its part in New Plymouth as his eighteen points from the tee, coupled with starting the move that saw centre Perez go over, was also vital to the home outfit's victory.
The aforementioned forward power was highlighted by prop Penn's brace of scores. His first coming from a lineout which was formed into a driving maul before he powered over.
And he was at it again on 56 minutes with another set-piece – involving Ripia and Souness – seeing the loosehead throw a dummy to go in under the uprights. The game was sealed.
But there was now the nagging unfinished business of a picking up a bonus point for the 'Naki and they finally claimed the maximum when replacement Soqeta added the finishing touches to another set-piece with a good finish wide out.
For a downbeat Otago, all that remains is to play out their season with three home games against Waikato, Tasman and Counties Manukau their competition run-in.
Tries: Perez, Penn 2, Soqeta
Con: Ripia 3
Pen: Ripia 4
Taranaki: 15 Jack Cameron, 14 Nathan Hohaia, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Shayne Austin, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Goodin, 8 Ben Souness, 7 John Willis, 6 Jason Eaton, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Leon Power, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Laurence Corlett, 1 Tony Penn (c).
Replacements: 16 James Hinchco, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 Nemia Soqeta, 19 Timo Tutavaha, 20 Kaylem O'Connell, 21 Isaiah Tuifua, 22 Esera Lauina.
Otago: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Karne Hesketh, 13 Brett Mather, 12 Charlie Hore, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Glenn Dickson, 9 Sean Romans, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Alando Soakai (c), 6 Eben Joubert, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Sam Hibbard, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Ben Nolan.
Replacements: 16 Peter Mirrielees, 17 Kees Meeuws, 18 Hoani Matenga, 19 Paul Grant, 20 Fraser Lau, 21 Michael Witt, 22 Andrew Parata.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence