Wellington hold out Canterbury
September 21, 2013
Canterbury fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal suffered a concussion in the final stages
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Fourteen-man Wellington defended stoically at the death to inflict a first loss on Canterbury, 25-19, and become the only unbeaten side in the National Provincial Championship.
In a match pitting the two dominant Premiership division teams this season, Wellington scored three tries to one in ugly conditions at home to open up a four-point gap at the top of the standings.
It took desperate tackling in the closing phases to hold out the five-time defending champions after Wellington reserve flanker Adam Hill was sent off for what was deemed to be stamping offence in the 73rd minute. Canterbury loose forward Jordan Taufua and wing Patrick Osborne were both ruled to have been held up over the tryline as they sought a decisive score.
Wellington held on to record a seventh win from as many games to sit on 33 points, while Canterbury (24) have won five from six. Second-placed Auckland (29) have won six from seven, all three powerhouse unions virtually assured of semi-final berths.
In cold, swirling wind and persistent rain, kicking and re-set scrums slowed down the pace of a game which evolved into a goalkicking battle between Wellington fly-half Lima Sopoaga and Canterbury opposite Tyler Bleyendaal. Sopoaga landed four-from-six in a 10-point haul while Bleyendaal landed five from seven in scoring 14 points.
The visitors' only try went to prop Joe Moody just on half-time to give them a 16-15 lead at the break. That didn't reflect Wellington's territory and possession advantage in the first spell, which resulted in tries to wing Joe Hill and flanker Ardie Savea.
Wellington scored a decisive try in the 50th minute through scrum-half Tomasi Palu after the Tongan international took a quick tap. It came while Wellington were one man short, with Savea having been shown a yellow card for persistent offending.
Canterbury will be concerned about a serious-looking knee injury suffered by fullback Colin Slade midway through the second half. Play was delayed for a considerable period before 11-Test back Slade, who played off the bench for the All Blacks against Australia in Wellington last month, was taken off the field on a stretch. A groggy Bleyendaal also left the field late in the game after a head knock.
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