Otago finally shakes off gritty Hawke’s Bay

Otago’s storm week might just be the making rather than breaking of this team.

It held on to beat Hawke’s Bay 18-13 at Forsyth Barr Stadium last night.

The game was a long way from a classic.

Hawke’s Bay fumbled its way through 80 minutes of fairly dour rugby.

Otago gained some traction out wide and had plenty of ball.

But it was never able to put enough distance between it and the visiting side.

The Magpies slotted a penalty with a minute remaining to set up a tense finish.

But Otago’s defense, which was superb all game, held firm.

It was its second game this week and the side travels to Invercargill on Sunday to play Southland.

It is a tough stretch but Otago has rotated players and should go into the fixture with plenty of confidence and enough fresh legs.

Otago will be without star winger Jona Nareki, however. He picked up an ankle injury during the 25-19 win against Tasman on the weekend and will be sidelined for up to eight weeks.

He had only just returned from an ACL injury which had kept him out of the game for the best part of a year.

Assistant coach Ben Smith said it was shame for Nareki.

“He was playing good footy for us and was right back on top of his game,” Smith said.

Otago halfback James Arscott found himself alone at the back of an early ruck and was promptly mowed down by two burly Hawke’s Bay forwards.

The pack owes him a beer for that one.

Otago was dominating possession and territory, though.

Cameron Millar missed an early penalty but got another opportunity a few minutes later.

This time Otago kicked for touch and set up a lineout drive. The home team botched the lineout and the Magpies escaped.

They did not make the same mistake down the other end. Hooker Tyrone Thompson got in the boot of a lineout drive and flopped over. Boring but effective, and utterly predictable. Hawke’s Bay scores a lot of tries that way.

Otago was eventually rewarded for a litany of Hawke’s Bay handling errors when fullback Josh Ioane slipped into first receiver and ghosted through a gap to dot down next to the post.

Hawke’s Bay was inches from crossing the line again late in the half, but settled for a penalty to go into the break level.

The home side was battling in the scrum, but it matters not a jot when your first five drills a 50-22 to set up an attacking lineout 5m out.

Millar provided the kick and Ricky Jackson the leg drive to get it over the chalk.

The maul was not quite as tight as Hawke’s Bay’s effort earlier, but got the job done.

Hawke’s Bay kept its error rate shockingly high in the second spell.

To catch a break, you have to catch the ball first.

But Otago lock Josh Hill got himself offside and sent to the bin with eight minutes to go.

Replacement prop Lolani Faleiva got over the line but the try was ruled out due to an earlier knock-on.

Lucky escape for Otago there but it remained under the pump.

Harry Godfrey slotted a penalty with a minute left, but Otago held out and avoided a repeat of the heart-breaking 23-22 loss to Counties-Manukau in the opening round.

NPC

The scores

Otago 18

Josh Ioane, Ricky Jackson tries; Cameron Millar with, 2 pen

Hawke’s Bay 13

Tyrone Thompson try; Harry Godfrey with, 2 pen

Halftime: 10-10.