MITRE 10 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP – SEMI FINAL 1 IN DUNEDIN
OTAGO 27-20 BAY OF PLENTY
Otago’s better all-round game and tenacious defence proved too much for Bay of Plenty’s grinding forward play in this absorbing contest.
Bay of Plenty scored first through a penalty to 5/8 Dan Hollinshead before Otago lock Tom Franklin barged over for the opening try. Otago centre Matt Faddes then made a damaging run that set up flanker Naulia Dawai for their second five-pointer. Both tries were converted by 5/8 Fletcher Smith. Hollinshead added a second penalty to reduce Otago’s half time lead to 14-6. The lead could well have been more but Otago were guilty of forcing passes that weren’t on (or even necessary) rather than taking the contact. Perhaps they were a little too wary of the breakdown ELV, Bay having been one of the better exploiters of them in the competition, and it bothered Otago coach Cory Brown enough to cite it as a concern in his half time interview.
Flanker James Lentjes scored Otago’s third try early in the second half, Smith again converting, for a 21-6 lead. Things were looking ominous for the Bay but former Australian Schools player Lalakai Foketi’s try and Hollinshead’s conversion gave the Bay some hope of a revival. Otago seemed to sense it, too, as they took a shot at goal from a handy position and a 24-13 lead, where they had earlier taken the lineout option from a similar position and come up short. First half hero Tom Franklin turned villain with a senseless no-arms off the ball charge that earned him 10 in the bin. To his great relief the only scoring in his absence was another Otago penalty. Bay scored a late try through replacement back Terrence Hepetema to set up the possibility of extra time, but Otago’s defence held firm and with some judicious running-down of the clock there was no further scoring.
Otago 27 (Tom Franklin, James Lentjes tries, Fletcher Smith 3 con, pen, Scott Eade pen)
Bay of Plenty 20 (Lalakai Foketi, Terrence Hepetema tries, Dan Hollinshead 2 pen, con, Te Aihe Toma con)
MITRE 10 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP – SEMI FINAL 2 IN WELLINGTON
NORTH HARBOUR 40-37 WELLINGTON
North Harbour overcame being on the wrong side of virtually every match stat to hold off Wellington in what was an even better game than the first Semi Final.
Harbour actually lead early courtesy of a penalty from 5/8 Bryn Gatland and a breakout try to wing Tevita Li off a loose pass. Wellington’s weight of possession and territory then had the inevitable result, centre Matt Procter’s jinking run setting up a ruck from which 5/8 Jackson Garden-Bachop’s kick found hooker Leni Apisai in the corner. An astonishing 45m rolling maul created their next try, wing Wes Goosen the beneficiary of a neat offload from centre Shaun Treeby and run from fullback Jason Woodward. A Wellington error gifted Harbour a 5m scrum just before half time from which they scored despite being driven back at a rate of knots. The Gatland conversion gave Harbour a surprise 20-18 lead at the break.
Harbour prop Nic Mayhew scored almost immediately after the resumption and another Gatland penalty made it 30-18 on the 50 minute mark. Wellington’s possession and territory dominance then took its toll again, wing Joe Hill finishing off a fine break from flanker Vaea Fifita, then replacement hooker Asafo Aumua scoring off a dominant scrum. Garden-Bachop’s conversion levelled the scores with 12 minutes remaining. Tevita Li conjured Harbour’s fourth try out of nowhere with a jinking run and a freakish offload to replacement back Daniel Hilton-Jones. Gatland’s fourth penalty with just three minutes left appeared to have put the match beyond doubt but Wellington weren’t finished, making their way back to Harbour’s line where in a flurry of arms a Harbour player knocked the ball into the in-goal but it touched the dead ball line before it could be forced. Wellington skipper Brad Shields pleaded desperately that it had been played dead deliberately but the referee disagreed. Replacement Sheridan Rangihuna’s try after the siren gave scant consolation.
North Harbour 40 (Tevita Li, Glen Preston, Nic Mayhew, Daniel Hilton-Jones tries; Bryn Gatland 4 con, 3 pen )
Wellington 37 (Leni Apisai, Wes Goosen, Joe Hill, Asafo Aumua, Sheridan Rangihuna tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con, 2 pen )
MITRE 10 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL (WINNER PROMOTED TO PREMIERSHIP):
28 Oct (1) Otago v (3) North Harbour, Dunedin 19:35 NZDT
Round robin result: Otago won 24-13 in Dunedin
This will be Otago’s first final since beating Waikato in the 1998 Division One final. That was Otago’s second Championship, having won the last round robin-only title in 1991. It will be North Harbour’s first final since losing to Auckland in 1994’s infamous, spiteful “Battle of the Bridge”.
HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP – MEADS CUP SEMI FINALS
Buller, by most measures New Zealand’s smallest Union, have a history of punching above their weight and have done it again by knocking over South Canterbury 16-6 in Timaru. They’ll travel to Whanganui to take on the defending champions who thrashed Wairarapa Bush 58-26 in the other semi.
Buller 16 (Setefano Sauqaqa, Peni Nabainivalu tries; James Lason 2 con)
South Canterbury 6 (Kalavini Leatigaga try )
Wanganui 58 (Malakai Volau, Michael Nabuliwaqe, Blake Hohaia 2, Ace Malo, Te Rangitira Waitokia, Craig Clare tries; Clare 6 con, pen; Dane Whale con)
Wairarapa Bush 26 (Eddie Cranston 2, Glen Walters, Zac Guildford tries; Andy Humberston con).
HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP – LOCHORE CUP SEMI FINALS
The Lochore Cup final will be a repeat of last year including the venue, defending champions and top seed King Country beating Poverty Bay 48-26 and North Otago beating Mid Canterbury 36-24.
King Country 48 (James Hemara 2, John Koko, Anthony Wise, Rob Sherson, Alex Thrupp, Dean Church tries; Zayn Tipping con, 2 pen)
Poverty Bay 26 (Ratu Daurua, Dan McIntyre, Everard Reid tries; Isaia Vuki con).
North Otago 36 (Lemi Masoe, Marene Mapusage 2, Matthew Vocea, Robbie Smith tries; Craig Smith 2 con; Tyron Davies pen)
Mid Canterbury 24 (Jarred Percival, Brendon Rigden tries; Jarred Percival 3 con)
HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP: MEADS CUP FINAL
29 Oct (1) Wanganui v (3) Buller, Whanganui 16:35 NZDT
Round robin result: Wanganui won 28-0 in Westport
Wanganui won the old Division Three three times (1989, 1996, 2003) and are four-time Meads Cup winners (2008, 2009, 2011, 2015) as well as having won the Lochore Cup in 2014. Buller won the 2012 Lochore Cup but have never held the Meads Cup.
HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP: LOCHORE CUP FINAL
29 Oct (5) King Country v (7) North Otago, Te Kuiti 13:35 NZDT
Round robin result: 4-all draw in Te Kuiti
King Country were once a Division One side and won Division Two in 1991. Since then their only title is the Lochore Cup last year. North Otago won Division Two in 2002, and the Meads Cup in 2010.