Waikato have made it into the top four of the Air New Zealand Cup with a bonus-point 35-29 win against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.
An open and free-flowing game in perfect conditions did not disappoint a big crowd as the lead changed times several hands in the first half.
Waikato had over 70 per cent of the possession and spent three times as much time in their opposition's 22. Yet Otago displayed a ruthlesness when presented with opportunities that their visitors did not and that, coupled with a demon boot of Glenn Dickson, kept them well in touch.
Dickson landed one penalty from well over 50 metres to tie the game at 14-14 late in the second half, not long after Jackson Willison had scored his second try to give Waikato the lead for the second time.
Willison had opened the scoring early on, with Otago's centre defence exposed more than once in a lively opening.
But a crashing try from Adam Thomson and two follow-up penalties from Dickson, had Otago 11-7 in the lead as they worked their way back into it. Then came Willison's second and that monster penalty from Dickson.
The pick of the tries was from Karne Hesketh, giving Otago the lead once more after Stephen Donald had made it 17-14 to Waikato with a penalty.
Ben Smith ran on to collect a high ball at pace and charge from his own 10m line into the Waikato 22, where he found Alando Soakai, whose offload out of the tackle gave Hesketh an easy run-in.
The scoring was not yet done for the first half, however, with Donald's penalty making it 20-19 to the visitors at the break, the fifth time the lead had changed hands.
The second half was tighter and a bit more edgy, with both teams sensing that the next score would be a crucial one. It was Waikato who got it, with loosehead Hikairo Forbes doing a passable impression of an outside centre with a long pass from Donald, and cruising through a gap to score. Donald converted and Waikato were two scores ahead.
Further penalties were traded, but Otago gave themselves a hope in the final five minutes with a try out of nothing from the elusive Ben Smith, who had a storming game, and the conversion by Dickson which made it 30-29.
But Tim Mikkelson scampered down the left-hand side to deliver the killer blow for Waikato - and grab the bonus point that puts them into the top four.
Tries: Thomson, Hesketh, Smith
Con: DicksonPens: Dickson 4
Try: Willison 2, Forbes
Cons: Donald 3
Pens: Donald 3
Otago: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Brett Mather, 12 Charlie Hore, 11 Karne Hesketh, 10 Glenn Dickson, 9 Sean Romans, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Alando Soakai (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 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 James Kenny, 21 Andrew Parata, 22 Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Waikato: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Dwayne Sweeney, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Hikairo Forbes.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Kent Fife/Romana Graham, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Trent Renata/Roimata Hansell-Pune, 22 Save Tokula/Henry Speight.
Referee: Chris Pollock