11 Oct 2014

Turbos seal top spot, end Otago's season

6:45 am on 11 October 2014

Manawatu cemented top spot and a home semi-final in provincial rugby's Championship division after beating Otago 38-25 in their final regular season game in Dunedin.

Hamish Northcott scores a try for Manawatu against Otago Friday 10 October 2014.

Hamish Northcott scores a try for Manawatu against Otago Friday 10 October 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The bonus point win reaffirms the Turbos as front runners to win the Championship title and secure promotion into the Premiership for next year's competition.

Second placed Hawkes Bay appear their most likely competition.

The loss ends Otago's hopes of securing a top-four finish in the Championship, their season is now over.

The Turbos came out on top in a frenetic encounter at Forsyth Barr Stadium, claiming their eighth win from 10 regular-season games.

An early try from Joe Latta gave Otago an ideal start to the match, but Manawatu soon seized control.

Callum Gibbins scored in 10th minute and wing Nathan Tudreu bagged a brace of tries.

Otago trailed 21-13 at the halftime break.

The teams scored two tries each in the second stanza, with Hamish Northcott's late effort putting the result beyond doubt for Manawatu after the hosts had reduced their deficit to just six points with five minutes remaining.

It's not the note Otago would of liked to send coach Tony Brown out on, though they fought hard to stay with the Turbos throughout the match.

Meanwhile Counties Manukau's push for a place in provincial rugby's Premiership semi-finals has gained momentum after they trounced neighbours Auckland 41-18 in Pukekohe on Wednesday.

The match marked the return to rugby of dual international Sonny Bill Williams from rugby league after playing two seasons with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL, though by the time he came off the bench in the 60th minute the victory was sewn up.

Sonny Bill Williams trains with Counties-Manukau.

Sonny Bill Williams trains with Counties-Manukau. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Williams couldn't hide his wide smile as over 8,000 Counties fans erupted each time he rose from the reserves bench to warm up.

The All Black-in-waiting didn't look out of place during his brief stint, which included some strong carries and deft touches to create opportunities for others.

It's understood he will likely play a starting role in next week's do-or-die clash against Tasman.

The Steelers scored 6 tries to Auckland's two, with former All Black wing Frank Halai bagging a brace.

The bonus point win is their biggest ever against Auckland and first over their northern big brothers since 2008.

The Steelers are now just one point behind fourth placed Auckland, with the two teams final regular season matches next weekend to decide their semi-final fate.

Tana Umaga's men must now travel to Blenheim to face the high flying Tasman Makos, who sit comfortably second in the Premiership standings level on points with first placed Taranaki.

Tasman, Taranaki and third placed Canterbury have already sealed their semi-final spots.

Auckland play Northland in their final match.