Sportal.co.nz 03.Oct.2009Getty Images
Taranaki enjoyed a surprising dominance in the loose through hard-working flanker John Willis while No.8 Ben Souness and flanker Jason Eaton were constantly in support. That left Otago little room to build its own second phase play and by scoring four tries the home team gave itself a great chance to push for a semi-finals place.
Otago , down 10-12 at halftime, was driving the ball into the Taranaki 22m area when lock Hayden Triggs lost the ball in a tackle. The ball was cleared immediately by Taranaki, not by the usual kick for touch, but by hand.
And the risk paid off as first five-eighths Willie Ripia, who had landed four first half penalty goals, fed wing Nathan Hohaia and he set off down the sideline before feeding infield to centre Paul Perez who cleared out on a 60m run to out-pace the defence to score.
Then four minutes later, in the 46th, a kick from Shayne Austin was well-placed right into the corner and while Otago cleared, it wasn't as quick as it might have been and the angle was reduced. From the lineout, Taranaki launched a driving maul which rolled and rumbled its way to the goalline, and when it was within reach it was captain and prop Tony Penn who put the ball over the chalk to score.
Penn was in the action again after 56 minutes when a set piece move saw No.8 Ben Souness burst onto a ball from Ripia. He found Penn in support and the prop sold a dummy then drove over beneath the posts to take the game away from any hope Otago had of a late recovery.
Otago had struck early, thanks to a lineout steal by No.8 Adam Thomson who charged ahead, set up a ruck, which allowed halfback Sean Romans to race along the sideline and then head infield to score with Glenn Dickson adding the conversion.
But Otago squandered its early lead as Taranaki Ripia landed penalty goals in the seventh, 13th, 21st and 32nd minutes.
There were flashes of continuity and impact from Otago, none moreso than when left wing Ryan Shortland latched onto a poor kick and charged down field in a lovely run only to see his support tackled just short of the line.
There was a change of referee 10 minutes into the game when international whistler Bryce Lawrence was forced to leave the field with a groin injury. He was replaced by assistant referee Chris Morris.
It was replacement forward Nemia Soqeta who capped another good set piece play when, from a scrum, wing Shayne Austin received the ball. When he was tackled he went to ground and presented the ball for Soqeta to pick it up and charge 20m down the sideline to score in the corner.
Otago's hopes of a late-season recovery were dashed and with rain falling throughout the game, its efforts to play catch-up rugby were high risk with the resulting errors contributing to its demise.
Taranaki 38 (Paul Perez, Tony Penn 2, Nemia Soqeta tries; Willie Ripia 3 con, 4 pen) Otago 10 (Sean Romans try; Glenn Dickson con, pen). HT: 12-10