University and Harbour meet in the final at Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend after clinching wins in their respective semifinals in contrasting fashion on Saturday.
Harbour built up a big lead by halftime but was guilty of clocking out too early in its 30-20 win against Taieri.
University held on to win 21-20 but Kaikorai scored two second-half tries and set up a thrilling finish.
Harbour had to fight off a belated challenge from Taieri at Peter Johnstone Park.
Not many were picking a Hawks’ victory. Their pack looked a little lean after the Otago camp had swooped in and hoisted off some prime beef, but Harbour still fielded a very solid pack and dominated the forward exchanges.
The visitors swept to a 25-3 halftime lead with a lot of help from an awkward Taieri side which lurched through the opening 30 minutes from one mistake to the next.
The usually reliable Josh Casey had a off game.
He got caught trying to get cute in the 22 and turned over possession.
He ought to have put his boot to the ball and cleared but Harbour pounced. It battered away at the line and eventually winger Piliu Tavake found space out wide and scored.
Harbour swung back on to attack when halfback Vinnie Isherwood ripped the ball off his opposite.
There was bit too much of that, from Taieri’s point of view. When the Eels were not knocking it on, they were getting pushed off the ball or frustrated and giving away silly penalties.
After another error 10m out, Harbour was awarded a scrum and the try was pretty simple stuff.
Isherwood flicked the ball to burly second five-eighth Hemaua Samasoni, who took some stopping.
Isherwood swung in behind and dived over to score from the base of the ruck.
Harbour added another through front rower Aidan Spence after Harbour first five-eighth Logan Allen kicked to the corner following more ill-discipline from Taieri.
A lineout drive was assured and so was the eventual try. Taieri winger Glen Beadle gave the Peter Johnstone faithful a reason to cheer when he knocked over his opposite in a strong tackle early in the second spell.
Prop Kieran O’Sullivan drove over for his side’s first try 54 minutes into the game.
Harbour prop Giorgio Bower scored the decisive points. He smashed through the defence and ran in from 20m to score midway through the second spell.
Taieri scored consolation tries through Shannon Young and Matt Whaanga.
The late sinbinning of Hale T-Pole did not help Harbour’s cause.
Harbour will go into the final as under dogs on paper but realistically they have a much bigger team with much more experience especially the feeling from 2017 final defeat.
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