Otago retained the Mike Gibson Memorial Trophy with a bold 33-28 victory over Wellington at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday.
Wellington scored four three-downs and played against 14 men for 20 minutes, but was foiled by a home side who, after a patchy stretch, showed a lot of dynamism in defense and poise in moments. keys.
The game wasn’t officially part of the reconfigured NPC, so this was the perfect opportunity for Otago to try a few things and give the new blood a chance to shine.
Anyone who has followed Dunedin’s first rugby this year will not be surprised to learn that Cam Millar’s kicks were a major factor in the victory.
Millar, the 19-year-old Taieri’s top five, missed a shot, scoring four penalties – the best effort of 48m on the corner – and converting all three tries.
Likewise, those who followed the development of imposing teenage lock Fabian Holland would have simply shrugged when he scored a nice try at a key point in the second half.
Otago was hanging on two points ahead with a man off the field, and Wellington had his tail in the air.
Enter Holland, who picked up the ball from a ruck, looked up, saw an open field and galloped 25m for a try he won’t soon forget.
While these two were grilled, another youngster was licking his wounds.
Sean Withy had done well with the open flank on his first start for Otago, but erased his notebook in the 58th minute when his header met Wes Goosen’s neck-to-head area, and the only result was going to be a red card. .
For a “friendly”, it was a match full of intensity.
The two teams mixed company and commitment, and if the execution in attack was sometimes biased, the application in defense and in the defined phases was exceptional.
Otago had been rocked by some scrimmages in the first half, but he started the second period with two monstrous efforts from the field, and the home side also scored two tries on copybook roster orders.
Liam Coltman, Josh Dickson and Christian Lio-Willie were prominent in the home field, while Kayne Hammington was precise and inventive at the back.
Wellington led by one point at halftime, scoring two fine tries – the first when Goosen won the race against a perfectly weighted Jackson Garden-Bachop puller; the second by energetic half-back Connor Collins during a sizzling break Peter Umaga-Jensen.
But the Lions were erratic in the second half and really should have taken more advantage of their long period with a male advantage.
Otago heads into the final round of the unusual PNJ – he travels to Hamilton to face Waikato on Friday night – with three straight wins.
The Waikato game is indeed a dead rubber. Winner or loser, Otago would return to the North Island a week later to face Manawatu in the championship semifinals.