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The experienced Taranaki Sharks have beaten the young Otago Storm 38-10 in the final of the revamped New Zealand Rugby League provincial competition yesterday.
Taranaki scored the first points of the game when Nathan Hohaia scored in the eighth minute. Taranaki extended its lead to 16-0 before Otago hooker Opini Toomalatai scored from dummy half with two minutes remaining in the first half. Peter Mihaere converted the try to make it 16-6 which looked like it would remain that way till halftime with seconds to go.
Toomalatai then made a 40 meter break from the restart to set up second rower Maveigh Makatoa to score Otago?s second try in as many minutes.
With the score at 16-10 at half time to the Sharks, Otago required a big second half if they were going to pull of a stunning victory.
The Storm threw everything they had at Taranaki early on in the second half, only to be denied by good sliding Taranaki defence which had not conceded anymore than 28 points this year.
After the Sharks with held the onslaught, they piled on 22 points in the last 24 minutes of the match against a tired Otago team.
The win was a major boost for Rugby League in Taranaki after being cut from the Bartercard Cup at the end of last season. And with Auckland set to lose two teams in the near future, both teams had a chance to prove they would be worthy of inclusion into the Bartercard Cup.
Taranaki fought their way to the final by beating Northland twice, and a narrow 29-28 victory over Hawke?s Bay Unicorns in the North Island Final.
Otago had two victories against Southland Rams, before stunning everyone to beat Canterbury A stacked with Bartercard Cup talent 18-10 in the South Island final. Though Otagos fairytale run did not end on a winning note, they finished the season by making the final in what has been one of the most successful seasons in many years for the region. And with up to six players in the team being under 20 years of age, expect to see the Storm in the final again next year.
In their 99 year history this was the first time that Taranaki and Otago have met and with an enjoayable day had by all both Districts hope it is not the last.
N. Hohaia 2, K. Martin 2, K. Katene, A. Hoskin tries; S. Wallacehoskin 5 cons, 2 pen
O. Toomalatai, M. Makatoa tries; P. Mihaere con
Courtesy of http://www.rugbyleaguenz.com