Otago made it the perfect start to the Mitre 10 Cup season with a 44-21 bonus point win over Wellington to go clear top of the Championship ladder.
With just a four day turnaround following Otago’s first game against Southland, there were no signs of fatigue as the home side ran in four tries in the opening 30 minutes to pick up a try-scoring bonus point.
Wellington struggled to compete with Otago’s proficiency at the breakdown, set piece accuracy and counter attack as they went into the break 28-0 down and never fully recovered.
Otago’s first try came when classy mid-field pairing Tei Walden and Matt Faddes combined to grab the early advantage. Captain Paul Grant capitalised on the early momentum by turning down two shots at goal to kick into the corner. Both gambles paid off as Tom Franklin and Sam Anderson-Heather went over from attacking line outs to make it 21-0.
Desperate to get back into the match, an ambitious Wellington pass was pounced on by wing Jack Wilson to run in an intercept try under the posts and complete the first half rout.
Wellington started the second half like another team as they recycled the ball for eight phases before finally breaching the Otago defence out wide as Matt Goosen went over.
Otago wasted no time answering back when fullback Michael Collins went over from another clinical set piece move to make it 35-7.
Needing something special to get back into the encounter, classy centre Matt Proctor and blockbusting number eight Vaea Fifita stepped up for Wellington as the score was closed to 35-21 through tries to Shaun Treeby and a brilliant solo effort by Proctor.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Wellington conceded more penalties at the breakdown as Otago pushed their lead to 44-21 through penalties by Fletcher Smith and replacement first five-eighth Scott Eade.
Wellington had no shortage of opportunities in the match but were often foiled by the brilliant Otago scrambling defence or their own lack of discipline at the breakdown.
For Otago, it was a fine all round effort against the team that knocked them out of the competition in 2015 and confirmed their status as a legitimate title threat.
Otago captain Paul Grant said: “I’m really proud of team, we got off to good start and kept the foot on throat. It was a real 80 minute performance and a 23 man effort.”
Otago 44 (Matt Faddes, Tom Franklin, Anderson-Heather, Jack Wilson, Michael Collins tries, Fletcher Smith 5 con, 2 pen, Scott Eade pen)
Wellington 21 (Wes Goosen, Shaun Treeby, Matt Proctor tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con)