Auckland hold off stubborn Otago
Thu, 11 Oct 2012 11:19p.m.
Auckland held onto a vital intercept in the last 10 minutes to down Otago 24-19 in their national provincial championship rugby match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Thursday.
With both teams assured of a spot in the play-offs, the battle for a home semi-final kept the game moving at breakneck pace.
Auckland looked to have blown a narrow one-point lead at 70 minutes when Otago winger Marshall Suckling latched onto a loose pass and replacement loosie Adam Hill broke clear to the halfway line.
But dangerous fullback Charles Piutau snared a second intercept and cantered clear to put Auckland eight points ahead after Gareth Anscombe converted from out wide.
Auckland looked at their best when they moved the ball wide quickly and kept the Otago defence back-pedalling, with their first try following Ben Lam's 30m break which was finished off when winger Dave Thomas dotted down in the corner.
Otago replied in kind at the 20-minute mark, showing excellent continuity and good security in the offload, finished off by Sam Anderson-Heather's cheeky dummy which allowed the big hooker to gallop over for the try.
Anscombe's accurate boot eased the Aucklanders ahead as the newly signed Chiefs first five-eighth kicked three penalties to give them a 14-13 lead at the break.
A stray foot in touch denied Anscombe an intercept try three minutes after the restart, and only a penalty apiece added to the scoring to ease Auckland ahead 17-16 as the hour mark passed.
Piutau's vision and speed 10 minutes later wrapped up the win, despite a consolation Otago penalty right on the final whistle.
Auckland's win gives them a chance of a Premiership semi-final at Eden Park next week, dependent on the outcomes of Canterbury-Bay of Plenty and Wellington-Taranaki on Sunday.
In the Championship division, Otago need winless North Harbour to beat Tasman to have any chance of holding onto their home semi-final.
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