Harbour 40 – Dunedin 27
Aggressive flanker Ben Whale played the decisive hand to help Harbour beat Dunedin 40-27 in in the opening semifinal.
He grabbed the ball in the lineout from a Dunedin throw on his own 22m, broke the defence and raced 40m into Dunedin territory.
Big tighthead prop Giorgio Bower ranged outside him and carried the attack inside the Dunedin 22m and No8 and captain Charles Elton was on hand to score the 80m try.
The try came after 37 minutes and gave Harbour a 20-point lead. Dunedin rallied in the final minute of the half when halfback Jonathan Ruru scored to reduce the lead to 23-10 at the break.
Whale (23) was the player of the game with his work at the breakdown, ferocious tackling and his skill at the back of the lineout when he made seven clean takes.
It was the strength of the Harbour forwards that took the club into its sixth championship final since the Harbour club was formed by the amalgamation of Port Chalmers and Ravensbourne at the end of 1991.
Harbour got the better of the strong Dunedin pack in the scrums and had the edge in the lineouts.
But the biggest feature of its game was the ball-carrying ability of the forwards who took the ball ahead of the advantage line.
Big men such as locks Sione Misiloi, Chucky Koroi, hooker Sekonaia Pole and Bower battered the Dunedin defensive line and took the sting out of the defence.
Openside flanker James Tomkinson did a power of work at the breakdown and the hardworking Elton was was on hand to score two tries.
Halfback Vinnie Isherwood controlled play and was the best Harbour back. Sio Tomkinson made some deft touches in the midfield and big wing Hemaua Samasoni used his strength to score Harbour’s final try and stretch the lead to 40-15.
The game was over by this stage but Dunedin kept fighting and scored two tries in the last five minutes to reduce the margin to 13 points.
Leroy van Dam made a difference in the second spell when he was shifted from wing to the midfield with his ability to break the line.
He scored the last try himself and made the decisive break for Dunedin’s other two tries in the second spell. Ruru was the other Dunedin back to demonstrate class.
The Dunedin forwards displayed a gutsy defence when the Harbour forwards were battering into them. Lock Harry Dodds and flanker Hame Toma had strong games.
Harbour scored two tries and added 12 points when Dunedin captain Mark Grieve Dunn spent 10 minutes in the sin bin late in the first spell.
Read the full ODT writeup here.