Planet Rugby

Otago break Eden Park duck

20th July 2011 10:54

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At last!: Otago celebrate victory

Otago beat Auckland at Eden Park for the first time in 35 years, thanks to a deserved 32-25 ITM Cup win on Wednesday.

Down 9-15 at half-time, the Dark Blues scored three tries in nine minutes - despite having only 14 players on the pitch - to lead 32-18 and hang on for a historic victory.

Both sides scored three tries apiece, however the boot of Glenn Dickson proved to be the difference between the two teams as the Otago full-back kicked five penalties, a conversion and even bagged a five-pointer of his own.

Discarded All Black wing Joe Rokocoko worked tirelessly for Auckland and scored two well executed tries, but it was no match for a new-look Otago outfit desperate to end their hoodoo at Eden Park.

Playing their rugby in the lower Championship competition this season after finishing dead last in 2010, Otago punched well above their weight division and outclassed Auckland who slumped to their second successive defeat in the space of four days.

Mark Anscombe's men led 18-12 early in the second half after some promising passages of play, and should arguably have held a greater margin when Otago prop Halani Aulika committed a cynical foul to deny the home side a try metres from his line.

But referee Garrett Williamson declined to award Auckland a penalty try as they came away with just three points.

With Otago reduced to 14 men after Aulika was sin-binned, Auckland could not put the foot on their opponent's throat and instead it was the Razorbacks who claimed the ascendency, scoring 20 points in the space of 20 minutes to seal their victory.

Auckland pivot Gareth Anscombe may have had a perfect day with the boot against Canterbury on Sunday but he made a horror start to this game, putting the ball into touch from the kick-off, failing to find touch from a penalty kick and missing his first penalty attempt.

Consecutive errors by the home side gave Otago the early field position and territory, and Dickson gladly cashed in to slot a penalty attempt and put the visitors 3-0 ahead.

However two outstanding tries to flying Fijian wing Rokocoko soon had the small crowd on their feet in raptures.

On both occasions he sought out lumbering forwards on which to exploit his pace, first stepping Tom Donnelly and bashing his way past Dickson to score, before getting on the outside of prop Kees Meeuws to collect his second of the night after 22 minutes.

But Auckland were consistently unable to regather the ball from the restarts and three further Dickson penalties kept the visitors within range.

When Aulika went to the sin-bin it should have signalled the end for the spirited Otago outfit as Auckland looked to make the most of their numerical advantage, but the exact opposite occurred as replacement Otago forward TJ Ioane nabbed the ball from the back of the line-out and raced 20 metres to score.

Dickson added the extras and another penalty goal before brushing off two would-be tacklers to score in the corner and extend Otago's lead to 27-18.

And when wing Buxton Popalii made a 40m dash to the tryline just moments later it appeared Otago could be on the brink of an historic victory.

Auckland managed to strike back and narrow the deficit to just seven points when replacement prop Pauliasi Manu rumbled over from close range 11 minutes from full-time to set up a frantic ending to the match.

But Chris Lowrey was denied a try in the dying stages after referee Williamson ruled Rokocoko's pass was forward, snuffing out any hopes of salvaging the match.

Auckland now face Wellington in the capital on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Counties Manukau bounced back from their opening loss of the season with a 32-25 win over Manawatu at Bayer Growers Stadium.

The scorers:

For Auckland:
Tries: Rokocoko 2, Manu
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 2

For Otago:
Tries: Ioane, Dickson, Popoali'i
Con: Dickson
Pens: Dickson 5

Auckland: 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Teddy Stanaway, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Seran Polwart, 5 Josh Townsend, 4 Richard Haddon, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Nathan Hughes, 19 Onosa'i Auva'a, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Piers Francis, 22 George Moala, 23 Charlie Faumuina.

Otago: 15 Glenn Dickson, 14 Joe Hill, 13 Ben Atiga, 12 Sam Giddens, 11 Buxton Popoalii, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Sean Romans, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Eben Joubert (c), 6 Regan Tamihere, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Daniel Ramsay, 3 Kees Meeuws, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Halani Aulika.
Replacements: 16 Peter Merriless, 17 James McGougan, 18 Rob Verbakel, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Johnny Legg, 21 Jayden Spence, 22 Matt Faddes, 23 Scott Manson.

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