Our rugby scribe gives his verdict on Friday’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship Final being contested between Otago and Northland.
The Southern Hemisphere’s domestic rugby season will officially come to a close this weekend with the two Mitre 10 Cup finals bringing down the curtain. The first of these is the second division final, better known as the Championship Final. This final will be played out in Dunedin with Otago enjoying home ground advantage over old foes North Habour.
Otago v Northland | Friday 28 October | Dunedin | 08:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Otago 7/20 | Draw 20/1 | North Harbour 9/4
There was a point midway through the season where it looked unlikely that Otago would make the semi-finals let alone the final. Fast forward a month and a half and the men from the South Island of New Zealand had finished at the top of the Championship season and had booked themselves a home semi-final against Bay of Plenty.
The semi-final was extremely hard fought with Otago building up a substantial 21-6 lead just after the second-half had kicked off, only for Bay of Plenty to launch a late surge. Bay of Plenty would hit back in the final quarter of the game, to ensure Otago fans would leave the ground with gnawed fingernails. And while there were chances for Bay of Plenty to draw level, Otago’s solid defensive effort would ensure “The Bay” were unable to crossover for the match-levelling seven-pointer they required to take the game to extra time.
In terms of team news for this one, Otago are facing a crisis at hooker with three of their first stringers unavailable. There is some good news though as legendary Wellington Hurricanes hooker Andrew Hore is set to come out of retirement for the game. The 38-year-old, who had a stellar career, could cap off a bit of a fairytale return by adding another final victory to his CV.
The men from Auckland were hard hit by injuries and All Black call ups but still managed to secure semi-final berth. Speaking of the semi-finals, North Habour entered their’s against Wellington as heavy underdogs. They managed to upset the apple cart as they emerged 40-37 victors in one of the most fast paced semi-final matches New Zealand has ever seen.
Harbour will have to produce the same sort of up tempo game plan this week if they are to get the better of Otago this Friday. Otago, while extremely impressive during the first 40 minutes, looked rather leggy during the final 20 minutes of last weekend’s semi-final. If Harbour can keep within a 10 point margin heading into the final 20 minutes this week, then they may well be able to spring a surprise.
Verdict: Otago 7/20
While North Habour did give Otago a bit of a run in the round robin phase – the game ended 24-13 in favour of Otago – I can’t really see it happening this time around. Add the straight Otago win to your weekend multiples or wait for the handicap to come out and get on the minus.
Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets