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Northland continue drive up Championship table

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Northland have stormed Forsyth Barr Stadium with a 40-23 win over Otago to continue the fifth round of the 2014 ITM Cup.

It was a remarkable second half in from Northland, who put together a good plan and turned around opening half pressure from Otago to record their third victory of the season.

There was barely a minute down on the clock when Namatahi Waa crashed over in an exhilarating start for Northland, five points that would signal the tone of the match.

Hayden Parker, who had a compelling first half, struck over Otago’s first points in the sixth minute.

The first quarter was a curious affair, as the Taniwha put together some good periods on attack, but they found it difficult to pierce a committed and organised defensive screen from the home outfit.

However Otago, one of the form teams of the season sitting second on the ITM Cup Championship table, clawed their way back into the contest.

Tom Franklin would score in the 19th minute for the hosts, showing once again New Zealand’s increased focus on the maul, with the blue and gold pack setting up the play nicely before peeling off to allow the big number five to cross.

It was a case of anything you can do we can do better from Northland, who would put together a precise driving maul minutes later, with backs driving hard alongside forwards, which allowed Jack Ram to score for the Taniwha.

Daniel Hawkins would add the conversion, and a penalty five minutes later, to give Northland an early 15-10 lead after 27 minutes.

However Otago would have the last say of the first half, when first five-eighth Hayden Parker would put in a pearler of a try as he regathered a crucial kick to score.

Adding the conversion and a last minute penalty, Parker would make it a 20-15 halftime score.

While Hawkins would add an early penalty for the Taniwha to narrow the margin, the second half saw both teams struggle to make ground.

Otago’s hefty dominance at half time, boasting three quarters of possession, counted for little as Northland continued to chip away at the home team’s lead.

Hawkins would add another penalty in the 50th minute, allowing Northland to regain the lead, as the home team in the second half looked tentative.

A minute later however the Taniwha first five-eighth would be yellow carded.

Both sides would make a raft of substitutions over this period which took some shape away from the contest, but Otago were not able to take advantage of the man advantage.

Big prop Ross Wright would cross in the 62nd minute, as Northland would continue to rule the late stages of the contest.

Ram’s second try in the 69th minute, with the flanker showing some beautiful support lines, would all but put the game out of reach.

Then an inside ball with minutes up on the clock to hooker Matt Moulds make it an emphatic win for the visitors.

Otago 23
Tries: Franklin, Parker
Cons: Parker (2)
Pens: Parker (2), Breen

Northland 40
Tries: Waa, Ram, Wright, Moulds
Cons: Hawkins (3)
Pens: Hawkins (3)

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