Counties Manukau hold Shield against Otago
SHAUN EADE AT ECOLIGHT STADIUM
Steelers coach Tana Umaga has admitted his side was lucky to come away from their sixth Ranfurly Shield challenge against Otago at ECOLight Stadium with a win today.
His side celebrated the 29-25 victory over the fast-finishing visitors but he said they could have easily lost the match.
''I thought Otago had done enough to get that game but I also thought we deserved to win and we played enough of the rugby to get the points on the board as we did,'' he said.
It was not the perfect performance he was looking for.
''We are happy with patches of the game and I think we are going to be able to build on that.''
It was a messy start to the game before Otago cashed in on a Jayden Spence break down the left wing with a try to hooker Liam Coltman.
Otago coach Tony Brown said Spence was one of the best players on the field.
''I thought Jayden Spence was outstanding and Tei Walden and Fa'asui Fuatai in the backs played good,'' he said.
''Up front, Aki Seiuli was probably our best forward along with Tom Franklin.''
A constant stream of errors proved to be Otago's down-fall.
''It was a disappointing, we came here thinking we had a pretty good chance to win the game but we just made too many mistakes at crucial times and that put us under pressure and gave them the ascendancy,'' Brown said.
The Steelers capitalised on those mistakes with tries to Dan Hyatt and Ronald Raaymakers giving them a 14-10 halftime lead.
Tries to Jordan Taufua and Michael Stanley gave the Steelers a comfortable lead but then Otago came storming back.
Prop Aki Seiuli and wing Fa'asiu Fuatai scored, closing the lead to four points in the final minutes.
Steelers captain Augustine Pulu, who was playing his 50th match, said it was hard to watch from the sideline.
''It was really daunting because we know it could have gone either way,'' he said.
''We know how dangerous Otago is so we are stoked with the win.''
Umaga said first five Ahsee Tuala played well filling in for Baden Kerr, who had to pull out of the game with another broken finger.
''You have to feel for Baden Kerr with his bad luck with injuries... but I thought Ahsee played well.''
Counties Manukau will put the Log o' Wood on the line against the side they won it from last year, Hawke's Bay, next Saturday while Otago will travel to Invercargill to face Southland.
Counties Manukau 29 (Dan Hyatt, Ronald Raaymakers, Jordan Taufua and Michael Stanley tries; Ahsee Tuala 3 con; Tuala pen) Otago 25 (Liam Coltman, Aki Seiuli and Fa'a siu Fuatai tries; Hayden Parker 2 con; Parker 2 pen). HT: 14-10
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